With lockdown easing, it may feel like we are taking significant steps back to normal life with good mental wellbeing. However, as official advice continually changes, many of us may feel like we are riding an ‘emotional rollercoaster’ – a coronacoaster if you will.
You might be feeling reluctant or anxious to take the first trip on public transport, or going to a socially distanced meet up with friends.
And, for those who have been shielding for the past four months, even the smallest step may seem like a big challenge to overcome.
In a recent survey, a third of people said that their mental health has deteriorated since the start of lockdown, whilst 80% say that working from home has negatively impacted their mental health.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that, just as lockdown has impacted our emotional wellbeing, the lifting of it will require mental readjustment for all of us.
With this in mind, below are some useful tips to help you to look after your mental wellbeing as lockdown restrictions lift.
- Take Your Time
With the world slowly getting back to normal, you may feel a pressure to engage with everything straightaway. However, there’s no need to rush, and doing everything at once may leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Instead, ease yourself back into your normal schedule pre-lockdown and plan out your activities so you only have a couple per week, leaving time to relax and recuperate between each ‘new’ experience.
Whether that be scheduling the first time that you commute back into work (if you are able to do so), meeting up with friends, or going to the shops. That way, it will feel less overwhelming as you adjust to new experiences.
- Planning Can Be Helpful
If you’re nervous about your first commute or trip to the gym, planning can help you feel more in control of the situation that you are going into.
Try writing down a list of everything that you think you’ll need for your trip, and even try planning out the route and how long you think it will take.
- Remember To Breathe
It may sound simple but, when we experience stress, our breathing gets faster and shallower. When you do feel yourself getting worked up, breathe slowly and deeply into your belly to override your stress response so that you feel calmer.
Also, pay attention to the length of your exhales and inhales. Try to breathe less than 12 breaths a minute, as slower respirations decrease the body’s stress response.
- Be Kind To Yourself
As some of us begin to return to our normal routines, now more than ever, it is important to be kind to yourself. If you’re struggling with re-entry anxiety, try speaking to yourself with kindness.
It’s easier to imagine what you would say to encourage a friend.
For example, you could tell yourself “It’s OK that I’m feeling hesitant about going back to normal – I’ve been isolating for over three months, and my home has become my comfort zone”, or “lots of other people must be feeling the same way – we’re all in the same boat”.
Practising self-kindness and compassion may help you to become more accepting as things return to normal, and is also a great way to improve your emotional wellbeing.
- Reflect And Put Words To Your Experience
Communication is important as we navigate this new normal. When a thought or feeling arises, acknowledge it and put words to your experiences. For example: “I am feeling a little anxious” and take a moment at the end of each day to reflect on the things that made you feel better.
Write down ‘pressure points’ which make you feel stressed and take some time to prepare yourself before a social situation or journey by performing some breathing techniques to increase your level of coherence and focus.
Don’t be afraid to talk to those around you about how you’re feeling either. Chances are, they will be grateful to you for opening up, and it will help you to set boundaries with others as to what you feel comfortable doing.
Wish you all the best as we prepare to adapt to the new normal…..but remember also to stay safe..