No one could have predicted that the 19th July, labelled by the British media as 'Freedom Day', would arrive in such bittersweet, and somewhat confusing, circumstances.
The ambiguity around the easing of restrictions in England, coupled with the 'Pingdemic' and a rise in cases, has certainly diminished any thoughts of celebrating the arrival of this new normal. So with this in mind, however you're feeling, let us guide you through how to take these next steps slowly and mindfully.
“I am surprised to say this, but I’m worried about lockdown easing.” At 67, Susan isn’t the only one feeling this way. After months of adjusting to restrictions at home it felt unnerving for her to give up that security and step out into society again. “I’m a sociable person, I do a lot of volunteering, I can chat to anyone. I suppose, now, I’ve got used to being alone.”
As lockdown restrictions ease, our reactions will be different.
For the social butterflies among us, this news has bought sweet relief from the monotony of lockdown. Coming out to see friends and family, will boost mental health for many lonely people.
For those who have been shielding, vulnerable to the virus or living with mental health conditions, coming out of lockdown may be difficult even despite being vaccinated. As the familiar patterns of life return, it will take time to emotionally adjust to the ‘new normal’.
Face masks, queues, travel restrictions, one-way systems, testing - are all measures to keep us safe, but in ways which seem alien.
For Susan this felt unnerving. “It’s like nothing I have ever experienced. I felt scared about seeing people. It felt overwhelming to come out to the supermarket. I was worried I would have a panic attack. Before lockdown, I would never have said that.”
Help is at hand. We can all discover ways to embrace social changes with a positive attitude, and find ways to feel confident as we come out of lockdown.
It's important to remember that whilst the restrictions might have lifted for now, how you decide to embrace the 'new normal' is your decision to make. Only do whatever you feel comfortable with.
If you’re anxious about getting out, ease yourself in slowly. Social occasions might work better in the park or a garden where there’s breeze and plenty of space to distance. Stick to Zoom or Facetime for friends who are vulnerable and don’t commit to seeing too many people.
If you’re heading back into work, speak with your employer. They will have strategies for safe working. It may reassure you to talk through your concerns first.
Don’t feel you have to hit the shops - if you’ve successfully switched to online groceries and deliveries then stick to what works.
Getting Out and About
Even though we can now meet in larger groups, eat out indoors and hug friends and family, it's important to remain vigilant.
Face masks, hand sanitiser and exercising caution, whilst are no longer mandatory, are still advised when socialising or visiting public spaces.
Change causes tension within us. Sometimes we embrace it and sometimes it scares us. Fear can manifest itself in different ways - we might lash out verbally, or physically, or feel panicked. It’s the ‘fight or flight’ reflex kicking in.
These feelings are normal. Try to see them objectively, acknowledge them and let them go. Stepping into a new environment is always challenging, but it will feel ‘normal’ again.
This situation is unique to everyone. There will always be people you feel are not following the rules. Try not to judge others too quickly. Everyone is adjusting to new habits, new environments and returning back to busy lives.
If you feel your frustration bubbling over, speak to an empathetic friend and try not to comment through social media. It’s better to vent and let it go.
Eat well and Exercise
The foundation of good health, whether mental or physical is through a healthy, balanced diet and keeping active.
If you’ve developed a gardening habit during lockdown, keep it up. Or, take a socially distanced stroll in the park with a friend. Even a jaunt around your neighbourhood will keep your endorphins going (the happy hormone) and you’ll benefit from the fresh air.
Build up your resilience
Nervous about lockdown easing? Celebrate the small wins. Try to pace yourself and take one new challenge at a time. Visit friends one-to-one. Go to your local shop at a quiet time of day - maybe first thing in the morning. Take a bus into town, start to familiarise yourself with how things are for now.
Each time you try a new activity, give yourself a pat on the back. Each time, it will feel easier. Keep going, keep challenging yourself and keep giving yourself credit.
If you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone. Don’t dismiss your anxiety or judge yourself too harshly. Be kind to yourself.
Use web chats or Facetime to speak with friends, many of whom may appreciate the chance to share similar worries.
A final note from Susan is the best advice: “I’ll keep checking the guidance and try not to put too much pressure on myself. Be kind to yourself is what I always say.”
Coming out of lockdown will vary depending on your location within the UK. To find what current guidance on what you can and can’t do check the links below: