The ease of lockdown will come as a relief to most people, and they will be excited to finally get back to normal. But for others the end of lockdown marks the beginning of a lot of stress and anxiety going forward. The number of mental health cases for depression has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic, with over a third of adults in Great Britain reporting the Coronavirus had effected their well-being. Specifically, 39% of married couples felt increased levels of stress and anxiety, compared to only 19% before the pandemic. This can probably in part be attributed to the combined challenges of home-schooling, mobile-working, as well as other responsibilities. Young people have suffered a lot with stress and anxiety, what with the yo-yoing of going in and out of school, exams (which were pretty stressful before the pandemic, let alone now with the restrictions), and future life concerns.
We have compiled a list of top tips to help you on your way back to a normal life whilst managing your stress and anxiety levels. You’ll find useful tips on things like coping with close human contact, large crowds, and some relaxing techniques to calm your mind. Anxiety isn’t something that is easily identifiable, therefore we also want to make as many people as possible aware of their actions and to be more cautious around others.
One of the main things you need to remember is: just ask. People can be extremely understanding and accommodating if you only ask them for help. You’ll see a lot of things in this blog we consider important information, and whilst it can seem like a lot, they really are some good nuggets of wisdom to keep with you moving forward!
1. Quiet Area
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed in an environment you aren’t necessarily comfortable in to begin with. Seeing someone do something you don’t like or people getting too close to you can easily send you over the edge.
Therefore, as soon as you enter that environment, whether it be a family gathering, an outside event, or perhaps a meal at a restaurant, identify somewhere you can escape to for a few minutes to get away from what is making you anxious. You could pick a spot away from the gathering, find an empty room in the house, or maybe even take a few minutes to collect yourself in the bathroom before diving back in. You can go there as many times as you need to take a break from everyone.
Don’t be afraid to ask the host if you’re unsure of where to go—a lot of people are more understanding than you might think and will help you out. If you’re in a restaurant, why not ask the member of staff seating you if you can be placed away from other people in a quieter area. This way, you won’t feel closed in and will have multiple “escape routes” if you need to excuse yourself for a moment.
2. Sanitiser & Masks
A lot of people will be happy to get rid of masks, as there have been many complaints of itching, feeling uncomfortable, and difficulty breathing.
Regardless of whether masks will or won’t be required once lockdown ends, it is still up to you if you want to wear them. You shouldn’t feel pressured into not wearing one just because everyone else has decided not to.
No matter if you are out shopping, at a friend’s house, or out to dinner, if you feel more comfortable with a mask then you should wear one. It’s always a good idea to bring one with you, despite feeling okay initially—you never know when you might need that extra reassurance.
Sanitiser should always be welcome in daily life, and it’s safe to say we’ve all discovered it’s value over the last year or so. Having a bottle in your bag gives you the freedom of using it whenever you wish, rather than the hassle of trying to find a public dispenser.
You will probably get some people who ask you why you are still wearing a mask, but most will be pretty understanding of your reasons. There will most likely be quite a few people still wearing them for their own safety and peace of mind—just like you. If you have a friend who is still worried despite whatever restrictions have been lifted, ask them what you can do whilst you’re around them to help them relax. Ask if they would prefer you wear a mask whilst in a car together, or if they need you to maintain a bit of distance whilst you hang out. This will not only help to relax them, but you are showing them you care, which is always a lovely feeling.
Buffets and BBQ’s—a favoured English summertime activity—can be especially tricky, what with everyone crowding around the food table and picking whatever they want with their bare hands. A good tip is to ask the host if you could pick your food first, or if they could leave some food aside for you, so you don’t get too close to others and can avoid touching food that has been touched by someone else.
3. Start off small
What you don’t want to do is put yourself in a situation that is too overwhelming and will just send your anxiety levels through the roof—perhaps even cause a panic attack. The best thing to do is to start small. Meet up with a friend or two for coffee or dinner, and see how you go. If you feel comfortable with this, you can then add another person to the group, or maybe go somewhere with a bigger crowd, like the park. Adding smaller changes can really help you to identify your safety parameters; how many people are you comfortable with? Are big crowds okay, or do you feel safer in quieter areas with your group?
Don’t forget to challenge yourself; try not to get stuck in your comfort zone and instead branch out. This can help you to cope better with large crowds and different people, so eventually you will be able to insert yourself into any situation with ease. It can be scary at first, but setting small challenges for yourself and achieving them will work wonders for your self-confidence.
4. Keep your confidence up
Speaking of confidence, walking into a room feeling positive and self-assured can do wonders for your mental health and make it easier to cope with your surroundings.
Wearing your favourite outfit, no matter if it’s a pretty dress/smart suit, or jeans and a hoodie, can be like putting on armour. And whilst you won’t exactly be going into battle, it will give you the confidence to stand that little bit taller and know you can get through whatever challenge you’ve set for the day.
Give yourself a few compliments in the mirror as well; say out loud what you like about yourself/your outfit and you can use these thoughts to keep the positivity going throughout the day.
So give yourself a primping session and dress yourself up—you have to admit, it would be a nice change from lockdown pyjamas!
5. Fidget objects for anxiety
This is one of the easier ways to keep your stress levels to a minimum. There are many fidget “toys” available, like fidget spinners and fidget cubes. They are small enough that you can easily keep in your pocket, and can conceal your usage if you don’t want anyone to know you are struggling a little. Keeping your hands busy can provide a suitable distraction from your thoughts or the uncomfortable situation around you and be really calming.
Whilst fidget cubes are designed specifically for keeping your hands busy and quieting the mind, really you could use anything that gives you comfort—a bracelet, a paperclip, a piece of string, or a ribbon—whatever will keep your hands busy. You should experiment with a few different things, as you might find you prefer feeling something soft or more textured as opposed to something you can click.
Oscar thinks a stick is the perfect cure for anxiety, but Henry prefers a bone!
6. Get yourself a lanyard
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard is a discreet way of identifying yourself as a person with a hidden disability.
It lets the people around you know that you may need a little extra help, time, or additional support.
A lot of companies and businesses are educating their staff on these lanyards, and as they have become increasingly popular, a lot of the general public are also aware of the lanyard’s meaning. They are for wearers who have a disability that isn’t necessarily identifiable by their outward appearance, and anxiety and depression are included in that list.
You can purchase the lanyard on its own, or add an additional identifying card to help others know what assistance you might need. The lanyards are ridiculously affordable and you can purchase one on their website here.
7. Check Someone Is Comfortable Being Touched
You should be aware of your surroundings regardless of whether the end of lockdown is a concern for you or not. Going around hugging everyone you know isn’t necessarily the best idea, as you don’t know how they are coping, and in an effort not to offend you or make things awkward, they may just accept your touch whilst feeling uncomfortable.
It is important to remember that even the happiest, most relaxed person you knew before the pandemic could now be nervous around people. You need to respect their personal space and check with them before going in for a hug or a handshake. Not only does it help them feel comfortable, but you are also still protecting yourself—Covid won’t just disappear as soon as lockdown ends.
We Hope This Helps!
We’re glad we can offer some tips for you to help with the end of lockdown transition, and whether you use these tips for yourself, or want to become more aware of what a loved one could be going through, we hope you find use of them.