Tips for coming back out of lockdown
This lockdown has been really tough for many of us; a really long three (nearly four) months. But, social distancing restrictions are starting to ease and, so, we are suddenly being given our freedom. I can’t quite believe it! Yet, although I have longed for this freedom for so long, why is it that I am feeling so strange about it?
Many of us have been dreaming of eating out, going for a swim, booking a holiday, but all of these activities are thwarted, different, not the same. All of a sudden we’re thrown back into an emotional place where we’re not actually free. Because those freedoms have restrictions.
Of course, the silent pandemic is the rise in mental health problems almost too overwhelming to begin to talk about. Anxiety, depression, our school children finding the anxiety of returning to school too much, and imagine being launched straight back into GCSE or A-level stress. All security has been taken away for our young folk.
We can look to trauma research to help us make sense of the range of reactions we may be experiencing now. Do you know that saying, ‘You cope at the time and then you fall apart’? That is simply because, in times of heightened anxiety, we do tend to cope. We hunker down and get on with the job, we are kept busy in the cause, with an end to focus on. We are on ‘autopilot’.
That is exactly one of the mindsets we have likely adopted; “Getting through this and out the other side”. It is only when the threat passes that we begin to make sense of what happened - the true extent of the danger we were in.
An evaluation and analysis of the event occurs post-event, which really shows us the meaning of what has happened to us. This can lead to an emotional “fallout”. All of a sudden, we are faced with emotions that are overwhelming in nature. But, even more confusingly, you'd think that, as the threat has passed, we should be feeling OK.
Another reaction is the 'freeze response'. For some people, they may have been in a constant state of anxiety throughout the whole pandemic, unable to make decisions, unable to function and waiting for someone to say the threat has passed.
The first lockdown brought solidarity in many ways. We clubbed together, enjoying the benefits of being at home, clapping for the NHS, making sure the vulnerable in our streets got their shopping and feeling good about one another. We were forced to think collectively as a group, we were social distancing, wearing masks, sanitising, staying indoors, all part of a collective group response to tackle Covid. Arguably, a lesson learned in our increasingly individualistic society. There was a sense of buoyancy and “keep calm and carry on” was the mantra.
The second lockdown became wearing (we had been here before) and we listened to rumours of adjusting Christmas which loomed ominously. We had to let go of the virus being a one-stop-shop, which is how we get through any normal trauma, it starts and it stops. We had to fully accept our lives had changed.
The third lockdown brought a depressing reality; winter being the hardest months and with messages in the background that it would most likely go on until Easter really meant a long, difficult realisation. A depression, a sinking feeling of helplessness, a psychological adjustment to the truth, much like adjusting to a difficult diagnosis, or to a death.
When you wonder why you have Covid exhaustion, remember back to what you have truly been through psychologically.
Think of the ups and downs you’ve had to adjust to, huge emotional trauma and facing your humanity and mortality on this planet. You’ve lived a piece of history!
Top tips for coming out of lockdown
1. Understand the conflict in your emotions
Talk about it and really acknowledge the competing emotions: initial excitement, anxiety, wariness about being in public again, moral questioning (am I doing the right thing?), fear of it all going wrong in the background.
We have now been conditioned to expect the worst, our experience of release from lockdown has been 100% a return to lockdown within months. This pattern will have settled into our mindsets and our memory won’t forget this.
2. Respect everyone is going through a different stage in their journey
Some may want to come out and play some may not. Take your time, emerge slowly and steadily. Choose carefully the things you want to do, try them and review your feelings, how did that go? How does that feel? Do I want to do that again? Don’t overcommit.
Be understanding if a friend or relative feels differently to you. They have different life experiences, histories, personalities and values which may all come to light in these stressful times. A bear doesn’t come out of hibernation the same weight he went to sleep a few months ago, nor does he head downtown for a pint! Slowly but surely.
3. Make a note of the things you realised in lockdown
Think about your true values, the people you genuinely want to spend time with, the reasons you do what you do, what you really find important. It is the type of life review work I do with clients and the truth becomes clear following trauma. You will actually see your purpose on this earth. I can help you step into it.
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