Guest Post By Stacy Smith
According to research from Columbia University, 21% of the global population said they felt increasing bouts of anxiety during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Among the most common triggers of this feeling were loneliness, uncertainty, and isolation. As such, it would make sense to assume that lighter restrictions would greatly reduce the mental health strain. Also Read: COVID, LOCKDOWN, PANIC AND MENTAL HEALTH: HOW TO REMAIN SANE?
However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Amidst celebratory throngs eager to rejoin society, a significant number of people are now feeling post-lockdown anxiety. For example, in the UK, sources from the NHS say they’re noticing an uptick in anxiety-related calls. In Germany, psychologists are sharing their findings related to an increase in pandemic-based anxiety and mental health conditions, especially in the youth. In the U.S., research has found that 4 in 10 adults have symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder.
That said, here are four ways you can ease back into society without letting the post-lockdown anxiety get to you.
1. Reach out to your peers
According to doctors from Mannheim’s Central Institute for Mental Health, pandemic-related distress may stem from limited social interactions. But rather than immediately subjecting yourself to strangers, start by reconnecting with your peers. This way, you’ll have a trusted support network helping assuage your fears and empathising with your struggles. What’s more, by rekindling your pre-pandemic social scene, you can stave away the loneliness that may be triggering feelings of depression and anxiety. Remember, though, to also be equally compassionate and encouraging yourself. Also Read: THE BEST WAY TO AVOID PANIC OR ANXIETY ATTACK
Ask your friends how they’ve been and learn to keep an eye out for some mental health red flags, like behavioural changes or dark emotions. Just as you can benefit from a support system, so can those around you.
2. Seek help from a mental health professional
As medically trained professionals, mental healthcare practitioners can address any anxieties you have whilst also teaching you coping mechanisms and techniques personalised for your circumstances. Depending on your preferences, you can receive professional mental health aid via doctors, counsellors, nurses, therapists, or social workers. While doctors and nurses hold medical degrees that can even allow them to prescribe medications—counsellors, therapists, and social workers usually rely on more therapeutic approaches like meditation, affirmations, and conditioning.
If you don’t have an existing mental healthcare provider, it shouldn’t be hard to find one near you. Currently, there is a growing availability of both traditional and online degrees in psychology, which has helped answer the growing demand for these mental health professionals. Such degrees impart specialised skills which can target specific areas of concern, like behavioural healthcare, social interactions, and interpersonal relationships. And all of these may be topics you’ll want to cover as you venture back into society.
3. Educate yourself on updated guidelines
A big reason why many may feel anxiety as restrictions ease up is the uncertainty and unfamiliarity. The world has changed. There’s no denying it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Before heading out, do your research and find the most updated safety rules and guidelines of your locality and any establishments you frequent. For example, in the US, face masks are no longer legally required in some states.
If you’re going back to work or school, you can also find out any specific rules that may affect your routine—like whether they require masks, if they have adjusted operating hours, or if you must now bring your own lunch. Keeping updated on the rules of the New Normal can help you create a new routine and feel more in control.
4. Take things slow
Lastly, remember to take things slow. We’re living in unprecedented times, and there’s no need to put any added pressure on yourself. Just as you adapted to staying indoors, so will you adjust to this new reality. Respect your boundaries and take things slowly. If today your threshold is simply going out to buy coffee, then celebrate that. Taking your time is far more likely to lead to successful reintegration, than rushing yourself and possibly feeling more anxious because of it.
No matter what social media or society makes you feel, there is no correct way to live and react to a pandemic. Everyone’s adjustment process is different, but what’s important is doing what will keep you happy, healthy, and safe in the New Normal.