By Ruth Hoey | Advice Editor
Since 2019 the world has been gripped by a global pandemic. According to data collected by the New York Times, it has touched the lives of every person, with 80 million people having contracted the virus across the world and at least 1.7 million have died. The world was brought to a standstill as national lockdowns were imposed.
However, the vaccination roll-out continues and the number of cases is beginning to decrease. The world seems to be moving back towards normalcy. This has left many people, especially students, feeling anxious and struggling to adjust to this post-lockdown world. Mind.org has stated that, “Nearly three quarters (73%) of students said that their mental health declined during the lockdown.” With most students claiming to have experienced lockdown anxiety to varying degrees, post-lockdown anxiety is inevitable as the product of attempting to bounce back into the pre-lockdown way of life.
Not everyone is excited to return to socialising freely as the past year’s isolation and lockdown has left deep rooted fears ranging from worry for physical health to the stress of awkward small talk with people they haven’t seen in months.
This post-lockdown anxiety is a completely natural response to the dramatic events of the past months. It’s important to acknowledge with your fears about the future and this transition back into normalcy: It’s a daunting prospect. However, it is equally important to address these fears. Learning to adjust to a new version of society rather than avoiding reality entirely is the healthiest pathway out of this time.
Practical steps which may help in coping with post-lockdown anxiety:
- Go at your own pace- Everyone progresses at different speeds; you don’t have to jump straight back into your pre-lockdown life. But it is important that you keep progressing, however slowly that may be.
- Start small- As I’ve said, you don’t have to dive right back into the middle of things. Start small, maybe meeting up with a close friend who you trust for coffee. Build up from there until you feel comfortable meeting up with a few of your friends again.
- Be clear about your boundaries- It is important for you to feel that you can avoid any unexpected interferences with your personal space and physical comfort zone. Try sending a text to whomever you are meeting. Or just gently stating your boundaries at the beginning of your meet up. These simple actions can make the world of difference to your anxiety levels. Your boundaries may differ from person to person but it’s essential that each person you meet is aware of what will make you feel most comfortable so that you both are on the same page.
- Take time for yourself- It’s important to begin getting used to socialising again. But spending some time by yourself to relax is also important. By spending time alone, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed by your growing social life and take time to evaluate your progress.
- Challenge unhelpful/negative thoughts- Mindset is important. Allowing constant negative and fearful thoughts in your mind will only increase your anxiety levels and make it all the more challenging to face moving back into society. Try to recognising when your thoughts turn towards a negative spiral. Distracting yourself with something else will start some more positive thought processes, making this journey all the easier.
With all of this in mind, it is important to be kind to yourself and try to avoid self-criticism. As clichéd as it may sound, this is an ‘unprecedented time’. Everyone is going through this period of reacquainting themselves with social interaction. There will be awkward moments, laugh them off and accept them in this journey into the new normalcy.