Ways to relieve post-lockdown anxiety
As the lockdown restrictions start to lift and we adapt to this next phase, it’s very normal to be feeling some anxiety and trepidation about socialising, going back to work or being in public spaces again.
Although lockdown brought its challenges, the cut and dry nature of what we were being asked to do did also bring certainty and for lots of us that could feel quite comforting. Now things are re-opening at a fast pace, this will naturally cause some unease, having been confined to our homes or a limited routine for some time.
Managing feelings of anxiety through this period is important, and there are a lot of things you can do to look after yourself. Here are a few steps you can take today to help regulate your emotions and bring calm.
Feel anxious about lockdown lifting? Take these steps
Limit time on screens
Looking at screens is associated with our “fight or flight” response, so you may find your anxiety and sense of unease increases after a few hours watching Netflix or being on the computer. Spending too much time scrolling through media outlets right now can also add to our mind’s sense of danger, and this will only increase feelings of stress.
Be conscious of the time you’re spending on screens and limit your activity if you feel it’s too much.
Getting good quality sleep is vital to our mental health. The blue light from screens can also disrupt our melatonin levels that promote restful sleep, so be sure to stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.
Be honest about your boundaries
Having some level of social anxiety right now is to be expected. We will all have different levels of comfort with what we are happy to do, and what feels too risky. Be honest with yourself about what your current level of comfort is. It is completely fine to be happy to meet one friend in a park for a walk when you’re both wearing masks, but feel uncomfortable going to the pub with a group.
Respecting your own boundaries and allowing yourself to go slowly as we all take steps to adjust back to a less restrictive life, will help ease feelings of anxiety.
Find a creative project
Humans are built for routine, and having a routine can be extremely comforting in times of uncertainty. You can build this into your life in many ways, and a great way is to choose a creative project you can pick up and work on every day.
Painting, crafting, cross-stitch or even something bigger (I have friends who have taken up wood work!) are brilliant activities for our emotional health because they are mindful.
You can become fully absorbed in your task and they allow your brain to take a break from niggling worry – even if you can only pick it up for 5 minutes a day.
Try a daily relaxation exercise
Strong and persistent feelings of anxiety and stress can leave us feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Our sympathetic nervous system which prepares us to confront danger (also known as the "fight or flight" state) can become continually activated, meaning our bodies release large amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline, that leave us feeling exhausted and anxious.
You might be dealing with background feelings of unease or dread, be sleeping poorly or even noticing digestive issues. You may also find your period is a bit inconsistent or you’re having stronger symptoms than normal.
A proven method to support your nervous system to recover and move out of “flight or fight” is to use a daily relaxation exercise that slows down your breathing, alleviates muscle tension and slows the mind.
When recovering from burn out, I used several different practices and my favourite was Yoga Nidra (the least effortful form of Yoga!). This form of yoga prompts deep relaxation. Find 10 minutes you can take to yourself today, lie on your bed and try this fantastic practice.
Get to bed on time
Getting good quality sleep, and enough of it, is vital to our mental health. But the catch-22 is that sleep is often the first thing to go when we’re feeling anxious and stressed. I struggled with insomnia when I was very ill and burnt out, and I know how horrible this can feel.
You can take positive steps to improve your sleep even if this is something you’re really struggling with. Having a consistent bed and wake time is the first step, as this allows your body to get into a natural rhythm and you’ll find falling asleep easier over time.
Avoid eating within 2 hours of going to bed, as our digestive process can keep us awake, and, if possible, avoid or limit alcohol, which is a known sleep disruptor. Avoid looking at screens an hour before bed, and instead try a relaxing wind down activity like a bath, or reading your book.
For more ways to improve sleep, check out this blog post.
Go at your own pace
Just because lockdown is lifting and businesses are starting to re-open, it doesn’t mean there is any rush for you to do something you’re uncomfortable with. Know your boundaries, and be honest with others about what you’re comfortable doing and what you’re not ready for.
Take steps to support your wellbeing, take things at your own pace, and over time feelings of social anxiety or nervousness about being in public will decrease as you become more used to being out again.
If you’re struggling with strong feelings of anxiety, it is important to seek support. Speak to your GP for a referral or find a local counsellor through this directory.
What things are you doing to support yourself as we come out of lockdown? Let me know in the comments below.