Post-lockdown anxiety: how to handle it

Feeling anxious about lockdown easing? You're not alone.

Anxiety older woman

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” 
― Soren Kierkegaard 

How are you feeling about lockdown easing? Does the prospect of a post-lockdown world fill you with relief? excitement? joy? Or does it bring up feelings of stress, anxiety, or dread?

I imagine I’m like most people: I’ve gone through all of these emotions and more as I’ve contemplated life after lockdown. I know there are people who feel nothing but positive about it: maybe they’re desperate to free themselves from a difficult home environment. Or perhaps they  thrive on connecting and socialising with large groups of people. And I acknowledge that I’m lucky enough to live in a safe and comfortable home environment, and that I am, by nature, much happier socialising on a small scale with close friends than I am with large groups of people. I’m also not denying the positives I do feel about a lifting of restrictions. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends. I can’t wait to travel again. And I’ll be back through the doors of my favourite local café as soon as they open. But I suspect that there are a lot of people like me out there, whose feelings about re-emerging into the big wide world are mixed at best.

So if your feelings about coming out of lockdown aren’t entirely positive, please know that that’s okay. If you feel like you’re surrounded by a collective energy of excitement and hype, and you’re the only one feeling daunted or anxious, please know that you’re not alone. If you’re feeling under pressure to socialise like mad, make up for all those lost months, and catch up with a huge list of people as soon as lockdown lifts (even though the mere thought of doing all that makes you feel exhausted or stressed) please know that there are lots of us feeling that way. And if you’re experiencing guilt for having these kind of feelings – as if it’s wrong to be feeling anything other than gratitude for lockdown being over and joy at the prospect of seeing and being with loved ones again – well, I know it’s not as easy as telling you to just not feel guilty. But maybe think about what you’d say to all the rest of us feeling that way too.

Anxiety middle aged man
Anxiety younger woman

And read on for four ideas to help you healthily handle and be okay with your post-lockdown anxiety.

  1. Be kind to yourself. This is a time to practice self-compassion, not to beat yourself up. Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling, and accept those feelings. Think about how you’d respond to a friend who shared feelings of anxiety or overwhelm with you. Would you tell them to pull themselves together and stop being ridiculous? Or would you accept and validate their feelings, and let them know it’s okay for them to feel however they’re feeling? Be your own best friend.
  2. Be honest with others. If you possibly can, share how you’re feeling with people close to you who you can trust. The simple act of putting your feelings into words and sharing them with another person can in itself feel like a huge relief: you don’t need to carry the weight of your worries around all by yourself. If there isn’t anyone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, there are all sorts of options for helplines you can call (including The Samaritans) where you can talk in complete confidence with someone who is just there to listen, without judgement. Or you might try writing your feelings down in a private journal: again, the act of articulating your feelings can in itself feel really helpful.
  3. Be realistic. Set yourself some post-lockdown goals that genuinely feel realistic to you. Reflect on your post-lockdown plans. Is what you’re asking of yourself reasonable? Is it set at a pace that feels comfortable for you? Be honest with yourself: notice what feelings come up when you imagine doing the things you’ve got planned. And ask yourself who these plans are for? Will they make you happy? Or are they based on others’ expectations of you? Or perhaps on misguided expectations you’ve placed on yourself? Of course, for many of us, we have people we care about whom we want to please – but keep your habits and responses around this healthy, and prioritise your own wellbeing and happiness. After all, you’ll not be much good to those you care about if you end up ill or miserable!
  4. Allow time for self-care. Now is the time to prioritise self-care. As you start spending more time away from home, and in the company of others, it’s more important than ever that you allow time to check in with and take care of yourself. Think of it as taking time to recharge, to replenish your energy levels, in readiness for the next social interaction or trip out. And remember that you can practice self-care, whatever your situation, and however much or little time you have for yourself. Self-care might be taking two minutes to stop and focus on the breath, half an hour soaking in a bubble bath, an hour practicing yoga, or an afternoon walking in the woods. As long as it’s something that genuinely nourishes and revives you, it’s self-care. And if the increased energy and stimulation you’re encountering in your post-lockdown world is making it more difficult for you to switch off and find peace during your self-care, maybe try a guided meditation to help bring you some focus and calm. Try this ten-minute guided body-scan to get you started:
    Free body scan

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The great thing with these suggestions is that they can be applied far beyond post-lockdown anxiety. Whether you can’t wait for lockdown to end, or you’re dreading it. Whether you’re experiencing anxiety in response to lockdown, or to lockdown ending, or to something else completely unrelated. Being kind to yourself, honest with others, asking only what’s reasonable and realistic of yourself, and taking time for self-care: these are all good habits and approaches to bring in to your life at any time, however you’re feeling.

My name is Heidi. I'm a yoga student and teacher. I love helping people discover and develop yoga practices that work for them and enable them to take charge of their own wellbeing. Check out more info on my classes, courses and workshops here.

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