Published on: 12th August 2021
Everyone has different experiences and opinions about how ‘lockdown’ and the COVID-19 pandemic have been for them. Some extroverted people may have struggled with being away from their social lives and connections to others, whilst others may have welcomed the break from socialising and now fear the idea of ‘getting back out there’ as national restrictions begin to reduce. Here are a few tips from our steps2change team on how to manage stepping back into our lives ‘post-pandemic’.
Top tips for managing anxiety
Take your time
It’s really important with any anxiety, to take small steps towards the things that we may fear. This can be hard when our fear of re-integration is met by other people’s excitement and enthusiasm. You may experience this as pressure, but it is important to recognise that you set the steps on your own ladder of success. Pacing is a very helpful skill to avoid feeling overwhelmed. It is okay to say no to social activity invitations as long as you feel you are taking steps forwards, and perhaps you can suggest activities which make you feel more comfortable to begin with or suggest meeting in smaller groups.
Focus on what is in your control
Often when people feel worried or anxious it can be due to the feeling of uncertainty. Uncertainty tends to be that uncomfortable feeling we get when things are out of our control. It is therefore important to remain focused on what is in our control opposed to those hypothetical (and sometimes unrealistic) concerns about what could go wrong. For example, if you were meeting your friends at a restaurant for the first time since 'lockdown', consider the elements you can control such as social distancing, wearing your mask when necessary and visiting public places at quieter times. It can also help to consider when you have managed uncertainty before and been able to cope (before or during the pandemic). You can rely on that same resilience now and in times of change.
Being activated, doesn’t always mean having to be doing physical exercise - although this does have significant positive effects on stress and anxiety. Behavioural Activation is reflecting on what you are currently doing and planning in equal levels of things you enjoy, things that give you a sense of achievement, and things that help you feel connected to other people. These can be any forms of activity, such as going outside in the garden or having a visit with a friend. Try the things you are able to do and build on these moving forward.
You may choose to write a list of the things you are able to do now ‘lockdown’ has lifted to build on that sense of motivation. These can be anything from booking an appointment for the GP/dentist/hair salon you have been delaying or considering where you would like to travel to once it is safe to do so.
Maintain the gains lockdown might have given you
‘Lockdown’ may have seen you develop new hobbies or even helped you slow down a little and focus on your routine and self-care. The temptation may be to now let those things go because other areas of life like socialising feel more important, however having a routine has always been good for our mental health. Therefore, if you have been someone whose routines have disappeared during lockdown, or you have found new routines that have helped you remain positive, considering them and implementing them now restrictions are lifting is still important.
Access mental health services if you need help
At times, it is completely normal to feel anxious, low, sad, overwhelmed and frustrated. However if these feelings persist and are having a negative impact on your life, they can sometimes lead to a common mental health problem such as depression or anxiety.
If you feel that you may be experiencing a common mental health problem, it is important to seek the right help sooner rather than later. steps2change offer IAPT talking therapies for mild to moderate mental health problems including anxiety, and can be accessed via your GP or online using our self-referral form.
For more information about how we can help or to fill in the self-referral form, visit www.lpft.nhs.uk/steps2change/accessing-our-services