With the lockdown restrictions easing across the country, it might seem that things are starting to slowly go back to how they were before Covid-19. Many of us may be happy to resume old activities, but at the same time we may feel anxious about having to readjust to ‘normal’ life or at least have mixed feelings about it. Knowing that all these feelings are normal and that you are not alone might make things a bit easier but taking an active approach in dealing with these can further help you readjust to the new life.
Dealing with social anxiety
Social anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes fear of social situations such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, going to work or shopping. If you had been dealing with social anxiety before the pandemic, the thought of going back into the world again after months of staying at home might intensify your social anxiety. Even if you have never experienced social anxiety before, your social ‘muscles’ might be stiff after living with restrictions for so long. Here are some things you could try to make you feel more confident about socialising again:
- Make plans. Instead of trying to ignore your anxieties, it might help to think about the situations that worry you the most. You could write them down in a journal or talk about them with someone you trust, then try to come up with things that can make the situation better such as planning and preparing mentally for that situation.
- Readjust, slowly. You don’t have to jump back in at once in all pre-lockdown social activities and say ‘yes’ to all invitations. Socialise in amounts that feel manageable to you such as meeting people one-on-one instead of hanging out in larger groups and going out in quieter places at first. When you start feeling a bit more confident, try to challenge yourself a bit more by taking advantage of more opportunities to socialise.
- Mix and match. Just because we are allowed to meet others face-to-face again, it doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with people through phone calls, video chats and messaging. Chatting on the phone with someone before meeting with them in person could help you feel more prepared and more confident in that social situation.
Staying safe when going out
Although restrictions are easing and more people are being offered the vaccine, we still need to maintain some health and safety measures to avoid spreading and catching the virus. Government advice recommends social distancing, washing hands often and wearing a face covering. Here are some more tips on keeping safe when going out:
- Avoid spending unnecessary time indoors if it’s not at your home. Even though infections can happen outdoors too, they are less likely because fresh air disperses the virus and helps to evaporate the liquid droplets that carry it. The ultraviolet light from the sun should also help in killing the virus.
- If you need to use a public toilet, it might be better to try to let some time pass before using the toilet after someone else. This is to allow the air to settle as viruses are mostly spread through the air. Avoiding bringing any personal items such as phones and bags with you in the toilet could also lower the risk of infection.
- If you are having a picnic with people from outside your household, try to bring your own food, drinks and utensils. Sharing these can increase the chances of cross-contamination. Having a BBQ is considered safe, because hot food is highly unlikely to transmit the virus, but make sure to serve the food directly from the grill on to a person's plate, not from a shared platter.
Changing for the better
The lockdown and restrictions forced many people to start new routines. Maybe you have finally managed to quit an old unhealthy behaviour or you have simply discovered a routine that works better for you. Even though you might now be able to return to your old habits, keeping some of the healthy routines developed during the pandemic might help you live healthier from now on. Here are 3 examples of lockdown habits worth keeping:
- Cooking at home. With restaurants closed during the lockdown, many of us have been cooking from scratch at home. Now that restaurants are open again, you don’t have to give up cooking at home. Cooking food yourself gives you much more control over the ingredients you put into a dish, helping you eat healthier. Cooking at home can also help you save money on food and it is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy together.
- Exercising outdoors regularly. For many people, the daily exercise was their only opportunity to get outside the house during the lockdown while the gyms were closed. Exercising outside is a habit worth keeping not only because it helps us get the necessary vitamin D from the sun, but it can also help us burn up to 20% more calories as our bodies have to work harder when exercising on uneven surfaces and dealing with natural elements.
- Prioritising self-care. With more time on our hands during the lockdown, many people did more of what they enjoy most while looking after themselves better. Self-care should not be viewed as a luxury and we should continue prioritising self-care even when we are busy. Whether it’s exercising, reading a book, meditating or other activities, even 5 minutes a day of doing what we enjoy can build up to make us more resilient over time.
Many people’s mental health has been affected by the changes the pandemic has brought to their lives and transitioning to the new ‘normality’ could put further pressure on you. Here are some ideas of how to find support to help you look after your mental health during this period:
- Speak to trusted friends and family. Sharing your feelings and worries with a friend or family member helps to lighten the load.
- Visit the NHS mental health hub. From here, you can access advice, urgent help, therapy service and self-help tools.
- Call the Mind helpline at 0300 123 3393.
- Contact your GP who will be able to recommend the right advice and treatment or refer you to a specialist if needed.
Going back to ‘normal’ can make people happy, reluctant, or even anxious or nervous. No matter which category you fall in, you shouldn’t expect that everything will be the same as it was before the pandemic. This would be setting unrealistic expectations that can lead to feelings of disappointment. Therefore, avoid making comparisons, try not to make plans too far into the future and accept that we are still living in times of uncertainty.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.