With lockdown gradually easing, along with it comes the prospect of activities we enjoyed beforehand, as well as seeing friends and family we may not have seen in a while. However, while a lot of attention is focused on the more positive side of lockdown ending, for a lot of people, the thought of life after lockdown can leave them feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Whilst there may be certain things you may be looking forward to doing again, there may be other areas that you feel nervous about. These feelings of anxiety can be focused on specific areas such as returning back to work after time off or back to an office environment, to more social aspects such as meeting with friends who you may have become distant with over the past year of events. Lockdown may have also made you re-evaluate what is important to you, so you may be anxious over making important changes in your life.
No matter what you are feeling, here we share some advice from our partner, British Heart Foundation to try and help you to ease or help control these feelings of anxiety.
Go at your own pace
As lockdown restrictions begin to lift, it can be helpful to remember that it’s up to you what your transition from lockdown looks like. Sometimes small adjustments can be easier to adapt to than large, sudden changes. You can add activities and habits back into your routine at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
Throughout the last year we’ve needed to create new habits to keep us safe. Although the vaccine is being rolled out ever more widely, and lockdown restrictions are easing, we’ll still need to maintain some of these measures to stop the virus spreading. While having had the coronavirus vaccine is helpful and reassuring, you still need to follow current guidance on social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a face covering. That way we can all help keep each other safe.
Returning to work
As more employers begin to open their workplaces, you may be thinking about making the change from working at home to going back out to work. You may be looking forward to this, but for some this may cause anxiety, especially if you have been working from home for many months.
Your employer should have made changes at your workplace to ensure it is 'Covid-secure'. You might find it helpful to find out from your employer before you return what those measures will be, so you know what to expect.
Can you arrange to go back to your workplace one or two days a week at first, to allow you to get used to it? If your concern is about getting public transport, perhaps you could travel outside of peak times? Or you may be able to cycle, walk or drive.
Seeing friends and family
Many friends and family members have stayed apart during lockdown. Seeing your loved ones face to face is a great way to boost your wellbeing, and is especially important if you’ve been shielding alone, but you might find it feels strange at first.
If it’s been a while since you met other people, and you feel unsure about it, try having a trial run with one person to build up your confidence, if the rules in your area allow this. Discussing the steps you’ll take beforehand might reassure you – for example, how far apart you’ll sit, whether you’ll wear a face covering, and if you’ll avoid touching shared surfaces.
Try these simple steps to keep the infection risk as low as possible:
- Meet in open spaces rather than crowded areas – try a walk in nature
- Limit the number of people you meet – for example, you could try not to socialise more than once in a day
- Wash your hands before and after meeting someone
- Don’t share items like cutlery or food if you’re eating together
Going out to pubs and restaurants
Plans to reopen pubs and restaurants are underway. If you want to go out and enjoy yourself, these things may help to reduce your risk of catching the virus:
- Go at a quieter time, for example a weekday rather than a weekend evening
- Use hand sanitiser when you arrive, and also wash your hands before and after eating
- Use contactless payment rather than cash.
However, if you don’t feel ready yet to meet family or friends in a pub or restaurant, give yourself some time to get used to the idea of going out again to socialise. In the meantime you can keep in touch over the phone or on video chats, or by meeting outside for a walk.
How to deal with social anxiety after lockdown
If you haven’t been in social situations recently, it’s normal to feel a bit of social anxiety. It’s not surprising if socialising feels strange or more difficult when you haven’t been doing it, so be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much.
Try to ease back into social situations gradually and start small if you can. It can be helpful to think about what you do and don’t want to do socially, and to set some goals for yourself. Try to remind yourself of the last time you have fun with friends, so you remember what you can look forward to. It probably isn’t helpful to avoid social situations completely, but if you want to say no to some things that you don’t think you’ll enjoy, or don’t feel ready for, that’s okay.
If you feel ready to start going out to the shops again, these tips could help keep you safer:
- Choose times of day when it won’t be so busy, like early in the morning or later in the evening
- Choose shops that are quieter, or have more space for shoppers to socially distance
- Wipe down the handles of your trolley or basket (many supermarkets provide sanitising gel and wipes for you to use)
- Do one big shop instead of lots of small ones
- Use contactless payment instead of cash
Going to medical appointments
You may be asked to attend medical appointments online or over the phone. It’s a good idea to attend, even if you would prefer face-to-face contact. It’ll give you the chance to ask any questions you may have and to help your doctor look after you as well as possible.
If you are invited for a face-to-face appointment, such as for a test, be reassured that hospitals and GP surgeries are very safe and are taking extra precautions to protect staff and patients. The benefit to you from having the test or appointment will outweigh any risk.
Pharmacy2U can help take away some of the anxiety and stress around collecting prescriptions and waiting in unnecessary queues, as we can deliver your medication to your door for free.
Getting mental health support
If you are worried about your mental health, feeling low in mood, anxious or depressed, or unable to cope, it’s important that you get the right support.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist who can help understand what you’re going through, recommend the right treatment, and refer you on to other services if needed.
You can also use the below services
Call the Anxiety UK helpline to speak to someone - 08444 775774 (open 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday)
Call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393
Visit the NHS mental health information hub
You can read the full British Heart Foundation article here