we might be sharing the same roadmap, but it is okay to make our own way.
For many of us, ‘Covid-19’ has been the greatest threat we have known. It has had profound effects on lives and livelihoods. It has brought fear, distress, and grief.
As human beings programmed for survival, we have taken the action needed to meet that threat. We adapted new ways of living. We have limited our contacts and stayed at home. We have found a place, a secure base that has let us cope and kept us safe. By adhering to expert advice, adopting new routines, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and mask wearing we have kept safe. The harrowing pictures and news reports of victims of the pandemic, day after day, repeatedly activated our basic fear reinforcing our reluctance to leave the safety of home.
Our adapted lives also became opportunities for many creative responses. For many it has been a chance for a quieter, slower, more solitary existence. We have re-discovered skills, abilities, and hobbies long forgotten. Making do with what is in the cupboard can bring a new sense of pride at teatime (okay, not always!). Observing, listening, having time for reflection, relaxation, and each other. While beating ‘Covid’ has demanded limits on physical contacts, inventive ways to maintain social connection have flourished. It has been a time of adaptation, creativity, and change. Simple though sometimes profound acts. There are many aspects of our adapted lives we won’t want to change and why should we?
Time for new adaptations
Now we have reached a new milestone. The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions brings much longed-for opportunities, particularly to see loved ones. It is what we have all been waiting for, yet we detect some uncertainty, anxiety even. What does this mean?
Well, this is our natural protective response to the return of threat. The ‘prime minister’s roadmap might say we can go out now, but it is simply a broad set of parameters. What do you want to do? You are in control of what you decide to do.
After months spent indoors, you may feel unsure about going out or socialising again. This is perfectly normal. However, lack of activity, ‘not going out’, can lead to more ‘not going out’. It is a vicious cycle of inactivity. No matter how much friends and families have been missed, it is important you do this your way.
Here are some ideas on how to create your own post-lockdown ‘going-out-again’ narrative:
• Make your own plan of what you would like to do, when and with whom.
• You may decide to gather some reliable information so that you can make your own informed decisions. How are the vaccines working? Are the local infection rates continuing to fall? When are the quieter times at your preferred supermarket, hairdressers, coffee shop, pub, park etc?
• Don’t be swayed by the pressures of others. Feeling anxious can often be caused by the expectations of others and loss of control.
• Test the waters first. If you prefer to meet outdoors, or chat as you take exercise, then do so.
• List the challenges of venturing out on a 1-10 scale, in terms of how anxious they make you feel.
• Keep an activity diary.
• Gradually including new challenges will help you re-build your social tolerance.
• There is no ‘normal’ response – you might feel motivated one day and not on another day.
• Allow yourself ‘downtime’ to ‘recover’ from outings.
Managing Uncertainty and Anxiety
In lockdown life was predictable. Coming out brings uncertainty and challenge.
• If you experience anxiety, remind yourself ‘this feeling will pass’, it may help self-calming.
• Focus on the present. Try mindfulness exercises.
• Talk about your concerns to a trusted other.
• Don’t judge yourself harshly.
• Learn to give yourself a little push when appropriate and letting yourself off the hook at other times e.g., wanting to cancel a friend visiting- sometimes gets you out of yourself, other times you just need to not do things.
• Living as a couple can bring its own challenges. One of you might think it is okay to do something and the other is not ready yet. Good communication is obviously key.
What if these unwanted feelings don’t go away? What can you do?
You can speak to your GP about how you are feeling. They will be able to help inform you about the local situation. They may also provide some basic counselling about your personal experiences or offer you referral to a trained counsellor attached to the practice.
You can also contact ourselves at Shrewsbury Psychology Centre. We would be happy to offer any further guidance and signposting.
Some useful links:
Nick Radcliffe Clinical Psychologist