PROCEED WITH CAUTION? HOW TO NAVIGATE THE EASING OF LOCKDOWN
How are you? I hope you are okay.
So many people I have been talking to are feeling apprehensive about the easing of lockdown and emerging back into the world. And I know how they feel.
In the UK we have a staged easing of restrictions. Yet these developments are often accompanied by the latest round up of coronavirus case numbers, and new variants that are causing concern. Such juxtaposing information, just as our lives are beginning to get back on track, can be a lot to take in. We may not yet feel comfortable embracing the new freedoms on offer.
So where are you in this? Are you impatient to party with everyone? Or is it too much, too soon and are you overwhelmed by the thought of being with other people? Or somewhere in between?
All feelings are valid, and there are actions we can all take to make moving forward easier and healthier. Take a look at the scenarios below for tips on how to plot your own ‘roadmap’ for life beyond coronavirus:
Lockdown Was Incredibly Stressful for Me
If you really struggled during lockdown, for whatever reason, give yourself the space to process it. Plenty of research shows that we store stress in our bodies and we need to release it. Grief, anger, confusion, frustration, loneliness, sadness – these are all normal human emotions and long-term supressed is not healthy. Sometimes external support is key as you navigate your way through:
· Reach out to your friends and family and talk about what you really missed during lockdown. Your support network is there for you, and you will be helping each other.
· Name how you are feeling and seek professional guidance if you need it. And commend yourself for taking steps to protect your health, mental and physical (it’s all just health)
· Physical exercise is another excellent way to ‘shake out’ stress.
· Read of my article ‘Are You Closing Your Stress Cycle?’
I Was Grateful for the Time Out as I Needed to Rest
Quite a few people I have spoken to felt near to burnout before lockdown. They were feeling increasingly exhausted by their commitments but did not have the capacity to say ‘no’. This cycle leads to less joy, less energy, and the feeling of existing rather flourishing. Lockdown was an opportunity to recharge, a forced ‘stop’ for some people. However, as we revert to life as we knew it before, some may be at risk of slipping back into old patterns.
· Think about the one or two things that really helped during lockdown that you’d like to continue and prioritise them as part of your current routine. E.g., a daily meditation, exercise you enjoy, cooking nourishing food.
· Commitment crop. Before you put one more thing on your To Do list, cross two things off. Then add just one. Ditch the non-vital things from your day before you start adding more.
· Look back and learn. Take the lessons from such a challenging time to build new habits to support yourself. This post traumatic growth approach helps to build resilience and nurture a growth mindset.
I Felt Like I Was Missing Out on Life Before Lockdown
Pre-lockdown life for some people was already rather segregated. This may be due to health concerns, being new to an area… many things can cause feelings of isolation. As everyone else’s lives slowed down due to covid, the feelings of being ‘different’ or ‘left out’ dissipated. However, as social media is once again chock full of group gatherings and cosy catch ups, it is easy to go straight back to feeling alone - but with the added blow of having not felt it for a while.
· Give yourself a ‘digital detox’ if being online is exacerbating your low mood. Trust me, what you see online is often quite different from reality.
· “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Shift your focus back to what you do have in your life; make a list and practice gratitude for all the good things.
· Name how you are feeling – talk to friends, family, or professional support if necessary.
· Set a goal for 3 months’ time and work out your mini goals to help you achieve this. To help, check out Habit Stacking and Tracking: How to Instil Healthy Habits and Achieve Your Goals
I Cannot Wait to Get Out and Do Everything Possible!
If you feel jubilant about re-joining society with a bang, that is fantastic. But remember that this past year has been challenging, even if you have coped well. Everyone will have ‘stuff’ to process as we have lived through a sustained, constantly shifting, volatile, situation. For some of us, it might be best to take tentative steps while also accepting the ebb and flow of our emotions.
· Give yourself time to take stock and make sure you don’t ignore the sadness. This could be a sign that you need to acknowledge all that has happened over the past year.
· Even if you do not feel like you need to think too much about it right now, please do so at some point. Do not store the emotional stress in your body as it may manifest itself as physical symptoms later.
I Was Very Lonely in Lockdown but I Feel Nervous Mixing with Others Again
Facing lockdown alone can cultivate feelings of enforced solitude. Yet, restrictions lifting are a double-edged sword for some as they feel daunted by the prospect of getting back out there. If this is you, your friends and family may be excited to meet up, but you may be anxious and unsure.
· Do not be pressured and do not beat yourself up if you want to take your time.
· Accept the ups and downs. Some days you may feel like doing something, while other days you just want to stay home. Whatever you are feeling at any given time is perfectly okay. Happy or sad, energised or exhausted, and everything in between, it is ALL normal. And appropriate.
· Please be kind to yourself. Allowing your feelings to just be, without self-criticism or judgement.
A few of my own post-lockdown thoughts…
I know that being outside in nature is a massive contributor to my wellbeing. And, as I am working from home more than ever, having very loving but clear boundaries between work and homelife is key for me. Having said that, I have the ‘busyness pattern’ too. I am really good at being busy! I know it does not add to my happiness, so I try to make sure I am conscious of managing it. (NB - We’ll be talking more about the ‘busyness crisis’ over the coming months.)
It might not feel like it, but we have a choice when we acknowledge that ‘enough is enough’. People should not have to reach burnout or be suffering from chronic health conditions before they seek support. Please speak to your GP if your feelings become too much.
Through personal experience, I know how it feels to be coping rather than thriving and I am passionate about supporting as many women as possible to brilliant, healthy, happy lives full of meaning and love.