As we start to emerge from the safe bubble that lockdown has provided, we may be faced with new anxieties as we discover how this next phase is going to impact on our lives. Lockdown, which came with many challenges, has become our norm, our security for many. Now we are told that we can venture into the scary outside world, albeit tentatively, to start to get our ‘old life’ back. The thing is, everything looks different now. We’re having to maintain a safe distance from everyone, but can we trust than everyone else is going to do the same? We’re allowed to go back to work, but it still feels like we’re surrounded by the threat of this invisible deadly virus, just waiting to punish us for accidentally stepping a foot too far towards a colleague. We scowl at our work mates if they so much as have a frog in their throat, searching frantically for that face mask and hand sanitiser. Everything and everyone feels like a threat and it’s really scary.
We may be experiencing a loss, of sorts – are there things that we’re going to miss about lockdown? Extra family time? Flexible working? Making more effort to really connect with friends and family, not just checking in with the odd text or Facebook like – a duty ticked off the to-do list.
Our lockdown routine was just that – ours. Now, do we have to return to a prescribed 9-5 schedule when our own was working just fine, thank you. Perhaps not, in fact this emergence from such a unique and unprecedented situation may well provide us with the foundations for some really positive change.
It could be an opportunity to review your own boundaries – what you will and won’t accept and make a plan to integrate these into your new, post-lockdown world.
If you have noticed significant reductions in stress over work/life balance, could you re-evaluate how you want the balance to look going forward? Maybe use the past couple of months of working from home as ‘evidence’ that you can be super effective and super-Mum/Dad at the same time, with no need to visit the office and stay 9-5, every single day.
Of course, all our circumstances are different and the above is just one example, but if you are in a position to negotiate tweaks with work, it could make a real difference to your stress levels.
If you have enjoyed additional family time, try timetabling this into your week as a priority. The key here is you have a choice and moving on from lockdown doesn’t mean that all control is taken away.
A lot of my clients have found it helpful to look at areas of their life that they can and can’t control – most find that the ‘can’ list is longer than the ‘can’t’, which is empowering in itself.
Acknowledge how you are feeling. Its ok to feel anxious, scared or fed-up and if we can allow ourselves to notice the physical sensations and thoughts that we recognise as emotions, we can process them and move forward. Noticing triggers will help you to understand and manage them, putting you back in control.
If you are really struggling, try to evoke the opposite feeling – for example, if you recognise that you are feeling particularly anxious, you could have a ‘calm box’ full of anchors to indulge your five senses. Ideas could be a super-soft blanket to wrap around you, a scented oil or candle, chewing gum, a playlist of your favourite chill-out music, a photo that makes you smile, a feel-good novel. Make time to nurture yourself a priority.
Try to pick out some positives – it could be something like ‘having an excuse to put something other than a tracksuit on’, ‘wandering around the garden centre’ or, ‘meeting up for a socially distanced picnic with a friend’ – indulge in the positives, put on your best outfit, notice the vibrance and scent of the flowers, enjoy how the freedom of sitting outside, smiling and reminiscing feels.
Remember that although your confidence in this old, new world may be a bit wobbly right now, it will return as you adjust. We as humans are incredibly adaptive – just think about how you have felt say, starting a new job, new relationship or the most recent change, lockdown. I imagine that in the majority of cases, you have adapted and become comfortable in your new environment. And you will with this one too.