How to navigate lockdown easing

Mollie Davies 19 May 2021

It's been over a year of lockdown, and now as things are opening up again some of us have got overly used to being inside—so here's some advice on how to ease yourself back into the world

For me and many others, easing myself back into things after over a year of in-and-out lockdowns seems like the only option.

There are reasons that many of us are feeling rather unsettled about “normal” life resuming. But that’s just part of the problem—the old, what was once “normal” is so far behind us right now, that we’ve adjusted to living in the strange situation before us. Plenty of people who have spent many years before working all the hours under the sun, or feeling incredibly socially drained have been thankful for some more alone time.

"The old, what was once 'normal' is so far behind us right now"

I spoke with Psychological Therapist Emma Kenny to unveil why some of us may be inclined to take a slower launch into post-lockdown life.

Illustration of woman leaning out of her window

Many of us have thrived during lockdown, I know that I have. I’ve had new jobs, I began a new relationship, got a puppy and managed to save a whole load of money. But even of those who may not feel quite as comfortable about lockdown life, not all are looking forward to things returning.

I know that I’m lucky to be living in a happy home, that has for the most part, remained unaltered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emma elaborated on this, explaining that those of us “fortunate enough to have been surrounded by family, in a reasonable living situation and furloughed, or spared the daily commute and able to work from home, then you may well have found your happiness index rising.”

We have become drained by the Zoom calls, with many of us living in fear that we may miss another phone call just to “check in”, even though there's never really anything to say. We have become content to sit in loungewear, hair barely brushed and Netflix on repeat. Plenty of us couldn’t even think about how to date again. In some ways, it feels as though we have aged 50 years.

"In some ways, it feels as though we have aged 50 years"

And let's not even go there with the thought of clubbing into the early hours, or energy draining days on end with other people. I already feel like I’m constantly on the go and I’m barely doing anything at all.

Man on a Zoom call with friends

Furthermore, Emma explained that with many “adults in the UK struggling with work-life balance, suddenly finding yourself with up to 18 months of paid freedom, or less travel and time taken from your day means that you may have been able to build stronger bonds with family members and relax and unwind for a very long period of time. For a minority of people who struggle with serious social anxiety, being able to stay at home and complete work through a screen without the worry of communicating with colleagues will have made life feel easier.”

But none of this fear, the boredom with lockdown habits such as the constant video calls and baking, or the repetition of nothingness, means that I’m gasping for complete normal life to resume.

Plenty of us have become quite content with being “boring”. I’ve done more crosswords and watched more Who Wants to Be a Millionaire than I’ve possibly done anything in my life. But I’ve loved it.

Woman doing yoga and stretches at home

A lot of this comes down to safety within our routine. Emma explained that “after a year of being told that you must stay indoors, whilst experiencing constant changes in rules it makes sense that you have most likely learned to feel a sense of safety in your routine. The brain needs to adapt to new situations and that is exactly what it has done, you have convinced yourself you must be going along with certain behaviours because it makes sense.”

Emma is keen to encourage people to “know that your feelings are entirely normal and don’t judge or criticise yourself because you feel this way. Accepting that you are going to need time to adjust and practising self-compassion is key. Build up your day-to-day experiences gradually, and be honest with your nearest and dearest about your fears as they will be able to help you by meeting you for a coffee, or helping you do a few practice runs back to the office before you return to work. Remember, self-care counts, so keep up, or institute a healthy eating and exercise routine as the better you feel about your body, the happier you will feel about your life.

"The better you feel about your body, the happier you will feel about your life"

Remembering that things will get easier, for everyone, is something that helps massively for me. Even when I’m not sure there is much evidence to support it happening, I try to hold onto that. Emma says that “a soft launch out of lockdown will help you to take baby steps back to normality and allow your brain to adapt to your old normal as you pick up pre-lockdown behaviours.”

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