With the end of lockdown in sight, many are celebrating the prospect of getting back to some kind of normality.
However, it’s also entirely understandable to feel anxious or apprehensive about restrictions easing – it doesn’t mean you’re any less excited to see friends and family. For nearly a year, we’ve been told to stay home to save lives, so the idea of soon being able to go out and about freely might feel a bit jarring.
Counselling Directory member Karen Schumann says: “We have certainly never been through something like this before, so it is completely understandable that we will have some anxiety and fear about how this will all play out once again. Will this be it this time? Is it safe? Can we trust this freedom again? The only thing we can do is take each day, each week and each month one at a time [and] maybe trust that we have adapted so far, so we can do it again.”
Our bodies have adapted to this new reality
“Staying safe at home has become our default behaviour for the past year,” explains therapist and Counselling Directory member Donna Maria Bottomley. “To venture out is to be very aware that we are leaving safety.”
This can have an impact on our minds and bodies. “Our nervous systems are set up to scan for threat and mobilise us for action when threat is detected,” notes Bottomley. “Going out and leaving our place of safety [could] be seen as a potential threat to our nervous system. Our body will activate us to deal with the perceived danger of going out.”
Bottomley says this can lead to “the two-prong features of anxiety and worry: feeling on edge and having worrying thoughts”.
“We have been cautious for a year and our body and brain has gotten used to this. It now needs to know how to manage the release of this caution,” she continues. “These feelings are normal and you can manage them, just like you have managed this past year.”
It means yet more change
“For some, coming out of lockdown is a huge change when we have already had to adapt to so much already,” explains Schumann.
“Working from home, perhaps homeschooling children, not seeing our loved ones, not having the same life balance we once had, and not having the same freedom – although having these things back in our lives will be positive, many of us have had to find a new routine entirely, so the thought of having to change this all again could bring about some anxiety and fear about how we might cope and adapt once more.”
There’s likely more uncertainty ahead
Even though many of us have been given a road map of what lies ahead, things are still subject to change, which can feel disorientating. “There has also been a high level of uncertainty since all this began and now we are starting to come out of lockdown again, perhaps all that uncertainty is back,” Schumann suggests.
Some people enjoyed lockdown
Everyone has experienced the pandemic differently, and while there has been a lot of trauma and heartache, some people have also found ways to thrive.
“For some, they have liked this quieter pace of life,” acknowledges Schumann, “and they now have fear about everything speeding up again.”
It’s important to remember that things might be changing at a certain rate, but you don’t have to follow the same timeframe. Take things at your own pace, and work out what you’re comfortable doing, when you’re comfortable doing it.