Coping with the end of lockdown

A number of people have asked me how to cope with life starting to open up again, so I wanted to try to compile some advice. This is quite a tricky one as everyone has had such different experiences of lockdown (depending on their own/loved ones pre-existing health conditions, their work status, quality of relationships, finances…the list goes on). Despite this, I wanted to try to address some of the most common questions and concerns I have encountered, but please feel free to contact me if there is anything else that you feel would be useful for me to discuss!

Changes to routine

While some of us struggled with lockdown life, some fell straight into a new way of living, finding that with every-day duties suspended, they were able to spend their time as they wished, carrying out tasks on their own timescale. For many, this has been liberating — being able to spend more time with loved ones, re-gaining the wasted time from the commute and even finding productive things to do now they no longer need to get ready for work. As a result, the thought of having to return to work, or fit back into the ‘old routine’ can seem very daunting. All of a sudden, we are on someone else’s timeline again.

There are a number of ways to try to address this. If you do feel that non-essential work activities such as commuting are eating into a great deal of your home-time, speak to your boss about the possibility of working from home, even just for a few days a week — you will be amazed by the difference this can make to your life — and it may even make you more productive when you are in the office.

As much as possible, try to maintain any positive habits you have developed over lockdown: if you went for a lunchtime walk, try to continue this, rather than going back to eating lunch at your desk. If you did a workout first thing, keep that progress going — even if it means getting up half an hour earlier. If you found a new hobby or started to learn a new skill, try your best not to give this up once life starts to become a bit more busy again. Even if you can’t dedicate as much time to it as before, protect even a half hour a day to enjoy it.

Having to cope with being alone

Again, not everyone has been isolated during lockdown. Returning to ‘normal’ for them means that loved ones have moved out, or have less time for family activities. If this describes your situation, again, try to maintain as many of the previous activities as you can — even from a distance. Try to keep up those Skype and Zoom gatherings if you can’t meet in person, but if you can, keep the scheduled get-together time, and meet up in real life for walks, trips, or meals depending on the time available and what you feel comfortable with. If you had a set day or time to do things during lockdown, try to maintain it. Even if not, organise events in advance and try to make them routine to give you something to plan towards and look forward to.

How to adjust to going back to ‘normal’ life

While some people seem to have no problem going back to ‘normal’ life, don’t worry if you don’t feel the same yet. Do what you feel comfortable with. It’s not up to anyone else to decide what you should feel ok with. If you still want to get your groceries online or avoid pubic transport, that is absolutely your right. Don’t feel pressured into anything you’re uncomfortable with — you are the one who has to cope with the consequences of your decisions.

If you want to return to normality but feel anxious, start by taking baby steps. We’ve had 4 months of barely leaving the house, so suddenly returning to normal is a big step! Begin with low-risk activities such as going for a walk in a park, having coffee at an outside restaurant, or visiting a quiet store. Once you have done this, gradually build up to tasks that are more anxiety-inducing, such as going to the supermarket, or an indoor restaurant. Obviously though, only do what you feel comfortable with — you’re under no obligation to do any of these things! If you see anything that you think will realistically put you at risk, simply leave.

Being anxious about the disease

Following on from the previous point, make a conscious effort to try to think about, and be aware of, the difference between realistic threat and exaggerated threat. This is something we all have to guard against as it is easy to blow concerns out of proportion, especially with sensationalist messages from the media and lots of time (often on our own) to mull over and dwell on concerns. A good way to do this is to write your feelings down. This can help you look at your thoughts more objectively — as if looking at them from someone else’s perspective.

Ask yourself some questions: ‘am I letting my mind run away with itself with these thoughts and concerns?’, ‘is this a reasonable worry given my situation?’, ‘have the government/legitimate health advisers said this is a bad idea, or have I read it on social media?’. Sometimes your worries may be legitimate — and that’s ok — it’s good you checked! Be honest with yourself though, remember that you are doing this to help yourself, and if you are not honest, the only person you are cheating is yourself!

The key thing to remember is that if you think that you will genuinely be putting yourself or someone else at risk (after doing your ‘reality check’ test!), don’t do it. If however, you think your fear is born of over-thinking/anxiety, then try to address your way of thinking — don’t avoid the activity. Avoiding a fear will only strengthen it.

Having to cope with being near people!

Another worry can be how to deal with others who are not adhering to guidelines. All you can do in this situation is to remember that you have no control over others’ behaviour, only your own. This means that if you go to the supermarket and people are crowding together, or not wearing masks, then you leave, and go back at a less busy time. All you can do is control your own behaviour, so make sure that you are safe, and if others are behaving in an unsafe way, then take yourself to a situation where you are safe.

If you’re worried about loved ones

This is natural, and part and parcel of caring about others! Again, we can’t control others’ behaviour, so all we can do is help to educate them about how to keep themselves safe and trust them to do so. Speak to your loved ones, ensure they know how to keep themselves safe. Tailor the advice appropriately — ensure children know how to keep themselves safe with proper hygiene etc., but try not to scare them. Reassure them that if they are careful they will be safe. Similarly, with other loved ones who may not fully understand the guidelines, give them a few clear and simple rules to follow. All we can do with loved ones in any situation is to provide them with tools to best look after themselves, and then trust that they will be able to use them.

Remember that this is a tricky time for everyone, regardless of whether you are returning to work, or just trying to adjust to the world opening up again. As we’ve said throughout, this is a first time for all of us — none of us have been in this situation before! Take your time, stay safe, and do what works for you.

As always, if you feel you are struggling, please contact NHS24, your doctor or other health service providers. For a great range of resources see .




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