After a long, hard winter in lockdown, there’s a glimmer of hope that we can start to get back to socialising and enjoying some of our most-missed activities as restrictions begin to ease.
But for many people this easing of restrictions may present a new source of anxiety and stress – however desperate they are to see friends and family again, visit the hairdresser, enjoy a drink in the pub or see their colleagues in the office rather than on a screen.
“Just as it took us time to adjust to lockdown, we should also expect that it will take time for us to find our way back,” says our member Abby Rawlinson.
“Going back to old routines will feel unusual and may even make us fearful, anxious, angry or nervous.”
There’s no right way to respond
“Responses will vary from person to person, with some people wanting to jump headfirst back into ‘normal’ life, whereas others will be more cautious – and it’s important to remember that there is no ‘right’ way to respond.”
Your anxious feelings are natural
She adds: “It’s natural that some people may be feeling anxious about whether they will be able to readjust to life back in the outside world. This is a form of ‘re-entry anxiety’, which is a specific form of stress related to the fear of being unable to adapt to previously established routines.”
Take things at your own pace
“It’s important to remember that it’s OK to feel uncertain and nervous – this is a challenging time for everyone. If you’re experiencing ‘re-entry anxiety’ then remember to take each day at your own pace.
“For example, if your office reopens, but you’re still allowed to work from home, build up your attendance in the office slowly and re-establish a routine that feels comfortable for you so that you don’t become overwhelmed,” she adds.
Coping with sensory overload
Heading out in to the post-lockdown world again will bring a rush of sights, sounds and smells that are very different to the isolation of your own home.
For some people this may lead to sensory overload and a feeling of being overwhelmed by these senses.
Abby says: “It’s only building up tolerance gently that can help us move though these fears.
“If possible, take things at your own pace – but try to challenge yourself to try something different every couple of days, and keep note of what you’re achieving.”
Coping with social anxiety
For many of us for months our only face-to-face conversations have been with members of our own household.
Even people who may normally think of themselves as being extroverts, might notice a bit of social anxiety as they start to reconnect with friends and colleagues in person again.
Abby says: “It makes sense that we might feel uneasy with other people after lockdown.
“We might have to push ourselves to reconnect with people and overcome initial awkwardness.
“Social anxiety tends to turn our attention inwards, which can make the symptoms of anxiety worse.
“So if you’re feeling nervous in a social situation, attend closely to what your conversation partner is saying, rather than thinking about what to say next.
“Many people who worry in social situations are fearful that their anxiety is visible and that they will be judged. It’s important to remember that although anxiety may feel terrible, it usually doesn’t look as bad as it feels. Even if people can see that you’re anxious, it doesn’t mean that they will think badly of you,” adds Abby.
Seek professional support if needed
If your anxiety or stress about the easing of restrictions is affecting your daily life, you may want to speak to a professional counsellor.
They can help you explore your feelings, acknowledge and accept them and support you find way to cope that work for you.
You can find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you by using our Therapist Directory.
What is anxiety? How do you deal with anxiety or help someone with anxiety? BACP member Caz Binstead explains how counselling can help.
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session.
How to get therapy
Where, when and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy.