Tips for navigating anxiety around lockdown restrictions easing

Lockdown has been difficult for all of us in different ways. The most recent winter lockdown has been particularly challenging, with bad weather and long dark nights limiting our freedoms even further and exacerbating feelings of loneliness and sadness. The next few weeks will see a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in Wales and the return to a ‘new normal’. Whilst the easing of restrictions is what many of us have longed for over the past year, we also may be finding this period of transition a difficult one to navigate emotionally. Some of us may be feeling excited, others may be feeling scared or uneasy, and it’s likely that many of us will be experiencing a mixture of these emotions all at once. It can feel overwhelming trying to manage all of these emotions. Arguably, things still feel quite uncertain and feeling unsure about how to adapt or to make sense of the situation is completely valid and normal.

We’ve put together a toolkit of tips and reminders to help us manage our emotions, take care of our mental health and prioritise our wellbeing as we navigate this period of change.

Go at your own pace — Respect your boundaries and remember that it’s okay to say no!

As lockdown restrictions start to ease, friends may start reaching out to organise meet ups and plan pub nights, picnics, holidays etc. Whilst this is lovely and we are all undoubtedly so excited about being able to spend time with our loved ones again, it’s important to go at your own pace and to respect your own boundaries. Throughout the pandemic we have all felt different levels of anxiety surrounding the virus and in turn different levels of comfort surrounding socialising. It’s important to take time and reflect on how you’re feeling about lockdown restrictions easing and where your boundaries lie with socialising. Don’t put pressure on yourself to match the pace of others around you. It’s completely okay for you to say no to a social event if you’re not feeling safe or comfortable. Your level of comfort may fluctuate and that’s okay too — you’re allowed to go back and forth in deciding what you feel comfortable with. Your loved ones care about you and will completely understand. This is an unprecedented situation and there is no right or wrong way to feel or behave.

Similarly, it’s important to respect the boundaries of your loved ones too. We have all had different experiences of the virus and some may have experienced loss and grief which will impact their levels of anxiety surrounding restrictions easing. Reassure them that you will be there when they are ready and comfortable.

Remember that you don’t need to have had a body transformation or lockdown ‘glow up’:

When the easing of lockdown restrictions were announced, lots of memes circulated about the rush to have a lockdown ‘glow up’ or get post-lockdown body ready. This is a pressure that many of us experienced throughout lockdowns and so may be a source of anxiety for a lot of us as we ease out of lockdown too. Home exercises were a great way of improving physical and mental health for many of us during the pandemic, but at times it could be difficult to keep negative body image thoughts from creeping in.

It’s important to remember that the past year has been one of the strangest and most difficult years that many of us have ever experienced. The last thing you deserve right now is to be beating yourself up or criticising your body for not looking a certain way. You have achieved so much to have carried yourself through this year. For that you should be immensely proud of yourself and deserve your love, appreciation and respect, not self-criticism. You do not have to have had a body transformation or lockdown ‘glow up’ to allow yourself to enjoy the new freedoms that easing lockdown restrictions will allow. You are beautiful just as you are and worthy of lovely things regardless of how your body looks.

Manage your expectations surrounding the ‘new normal’:

Even for those of us who are feeling relatively comfortable with lockdown restrictions easing, it’s important to remain mindful that it may take a while for life after lockdown to feel completely normal. It’s good to manage our expectations and to acknowledge that any plans we make or activities we do may feel a bit strange for a while. We should prepare ourselves for our experience of the pub or brunch or going to a restaurant or show to feel a little different to what we’re used to. These experiences may make us feel a bit strange and may be difficult to navigate emotionally, but going into them with a prepared mindset will hopefully help to manage these emotions. It’s important to remember that things won’t feel this way forever and that even if they feel different, they can still be really positive, lovely experiences.

Remember that you are not alone and keep talking to loved ones:

If you are finding these experiences difficult to navigate, talk to a loved one or a friend. This is going to be a strange and overwhelming situation for all of us, even the most confident, non-worrisome people. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in feeling how you’re feeling and that we’re all in this together. You’ll probably find that your loved ones are feeling exactly the same way and you can help each other to make sense of your emotions and navigate these new experiences.

Remember that it’s okay to feel however you feel:

The most important thing to remember is that however you feel right now is completely okay. You may find that your emotions are in a state of flux over the next few weeks. Keep checking in with yourself and reflecting on how you feel. Listen to your body and mind and what it needs and respond with kindness and compassion. Do what you need to do to feel better. It won’t feel this way forever and the brunches, picnics, parties, meals, pub trips and evenings with loved ones will be waiting for you as soon as you’re feeling ready.

  • Bethan Gilson, CWA Volunteer

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