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How do you feel about leaving lockdown?

How do you feel about leaving lockdown?

If you’re a bit nervous about lockdown easing, or apprehensive at the thought of starting to go out more, you won’t be alone. Some people who’ve found lockdown difficult probably can’t wait to get back out into the ‘real world’ again, but many will be feeling anxious. It’s going to be an odd transition for everyone.

Few of us will have ever experienced such an upheaval to our routines as we’ve had over the last few months, so it’s natural to feel uneasy about things changing once again. People who have had a stay in hospital can find it hard to return and readjust to the life they were once used to – this can even happen when you’ve been away on holiday! Just as there has been at every stage of the pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead, and this can fuel anxiety.

For some people, their anxiety will relate specifically to fears about the virus: how much risk there still is, and how responsibly other people are going to behave. If you haven’t left the house much over the last few months, or if you’re shielding and haven’t been out at all, the idea of being in public places again might be daunting in itself.

People who have specific conditions such as health anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalised anxiety may have actually felt a bit better as the country went into lockdown, as they were able to protect themselves. They may find life more difficult as lockdown lifts.

If you want to start going out more – or you have to, for work for example – these tips might help.

Try building it up slowly. If you’ve been avoiding supermarkets and you’re nervous about shopping again, for instance, start with a quick visit to a local shop that you know well and gradually increase the frequency, trying new places when you feel able to. Anxiety tends to reduce the more we do something, so you’ll probably gain in confidence each time you go out.

Make a list of the things you’re apprehensive or scared about, and then for each one think about what you can do to help yourself feel safer and more confident. Make another list alongside that one, this time of the things you’re looking forward to doing.

Focus on what you can control. Others might be careless or thoughtless, or wilfully flout the rules – but you only have control over your own actions. Concentrate on keeping up with and following the latest guidance, and create and maintain a new routine.

But get ready to be assertive, if you need to. You might need to speak up if you believe you’re being exposed to unnecessary risk – for instance if you’re not happy with how something is being handled at work.

Decide what you’re comfortable with. You might be facing a dilemma around whether to start going out more to support local businesses, for example, or to hold fast at home unless it’s entirely essential. Remember it’s your decision; use your judgment and common sense, and do as much as you feel safe with.

Make practical preparations. You might need to do some problem solving in order to leave lockdown. If you have a pet who’s got used to you being at home, how can you help prepare for them being left on their own again? Do you need to check the car over or get it serviced? If you need to travel on public transport, do you have enough face coverings?

Be aware that the ‘new normal’ will feel less than normal! Even if you’re looking forward to activities such as going to a restaurant, the pub or the cinema, things will probably feel quite different. Social distancing measures will be in place, there will be new rules and procedures, you might have to book in advance, and the atmosphere probably won’t be as you remember. This could come as a shock, so it’s worth spending some time finding out what to expect, and thinking about what it will be like.

Decide what you want to keep doing. Many of us have probably enjoyed things about lockdown life, and some could be worried about losing what they’ve gained. If you’ve enjoyed the slower pace of life, or valued spending more time with the family, going back to the rat race and rushing from one activity to another may not be very appealing!

Going through an experience like this can be an opportunity to review what’s important to you, and to make changes to your life. Think about what you’d like to continue doing after lockdown. For example, if you liked using the car less, work out how you can keep this up by cycling and walking more.

If you’re feeling particularly anxious or low about coming out of lockdown, you could benefit from seeking support. Online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might be a good option, as you don’t need to leave the house, and therapists are available 24/7. Find out more about the service Ieso offers here.

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