Feeling anxious about the end of lockdown restrictions? Wondering how to maintain your work-life balance and self-care boundaries you’ve carefully honed in once you’re back at the office?
As we emerge from a challenging year, many of us are feeling the effects on our emotional and psychological wellbeing – and not quite ready to take on the changing world again. And that’s okay!
Read on to understand where those feelings are coming from, plus expert-backed tips and techniques to help you handle them, and thrive post-lockdown.
Life after lockdown: how you’re feeling, explained
Anxiety, stress, reluctance and confusion are just a few of the feelings we’re grappling with as rules relax, according to mental health charity Mind.
Whether it’s concerns about the safety of office working or worries that your social skills have deteriorated, uneasiness about the changes that post-lockdown life will bring is completely normal. In fact, a recent survey by AnxietyUK found that 36% of us want to stay at home, despite restrictions easing.
From isolating lockdown measures to financial stresses, health concerns and losses, the traumatic experiences of the last year have undoubtedly taken a toll on the UK’s mental health. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that one in five adults experienced depression in early 2021, while evidence also points to greater levels of anxiety throughout the pandemic.
As we edge towards ‘the new normal’, the term ‘re-entry anxiety’ has also recently entered our daily language.
One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts in psychiatry and psychological trauma, is that it forced us to slow down and take stock of what’s important. The incorporation of self-care activities like yoga or meditation, journaling and getting outside on a regular basis, also gained new prominence.
However, with most social spaces now re-open and the UK workforce being encouraged to leave working from home behind, many of us feel threatened by the impending changes. What will it mean for work-life boundaries? How will we survive without our newly established coping mechanisms?
As neuroscientist, author and former psychiatric doctor Dr Tara Swart told British Vogue, re-entry anxiety involves “fear of the changes that will happen when we are able to socialise, shop and travel again.” She explained: “We experience a rollercoaster of emotions when any changes happen, and this is a change we are expecting and have had time to imagine the pros and cons of, in advance. The brain tends to create negative scenarios as a protective mechanism. If this goes into overdrive it can manifest as symptoms of anxiety.”
How to prepare yourself for ‘the new normal’
We all want to live our best post-pandemic lives, but how do we overcome those feelings to get there? From how to ease yourself back into socialising to what you should know about returning to the office, here are some pointers for navigating a life after restrictions, at your own speed.
Take time to reflect and reset
The last year has profoundly impacted all areas of our lives, including psychological and emotional wellbeing. Taking time to reflect on how your life, body and mind might have changed is vital to regaining your strength.
For many, the overarching theme of the pandemic has been collective loss – whether of loved ones, jobs, life experiences or even favourite restaurants. Allowing yourself to properly grieve those losses is key to healing in preparation for post-pandemic life. As this academic paper on moving forward post-COVID highlights, being able to understand the realities of your grief puts you further along in the healing process.
Likewise, taking time to consider what it is that’s making you feel anxious or reluctant about restrictions easing will help you better equip yourself.
Meditation and journaling can both be effective means of doing this, since they allow your subconscious thoughts, worries and feelings to come to the fore. More of a creative? Try painting or drawing instead.
Either way, allocate yourself twenty minutes to do your chosen activity. Then, once it’s done, do something fun to distract yourself. If the worries resurface, write them down but move on. The technique can help reduce intrusive thoughts and feelings by training your brain to be more proactive about worrying.
You can repeat this for as many days as you like, or even build it into your routine going forward.
Build a game plan
Planning can be a helpful means of alleviating anxiety. Once you know what to expect, going back to work or to a social event with friends might not seem so overwhelming.
Feeling nervous about getting public transport again? Investigate whether there’s a walkable route and consider driving, car-pooling or booking private transport until you find your feet. Given the effect music can have on our mood, creating a calming playlist of classical tunes may also help. Research shows this genre is known to encourage positive thoughts!
Doing research into your company’s social distancing policies, as well as its mental and emotional support infrastructure, may help you feel more at ease. Reaching out to trusted colleagues ahead of going back will also help widen your support network, and slowly get your social mojo back. Two birds with one stone!
Weave self-care into your workday, wherever you are
Breaking up your day with micro-rituals is key to having a less stressful day. One perk of lockdown was that many of us were encouraged to go for daily walks or runs, take a proper lunch-break and make time for self-care rituals like meditation.
Think back to the habits you integrated during lockdown and consider how you can adapt them now. Maybe you won’t have time to bake banana bread every day, but you could still take yourself out for a solo walk and treat occasionally!
In the market for a new ritual? A-Game can help! This one-and-done hydration hero is infused with nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and works wonders as part of a hand treatment, at-home facial or foot balm. Keep one at work and one at home to always be covered…
Find a few of our favourite easy rituals here.
Known to reduce stress, improve resilience and aid self-confidence, mindfulness is another great option that can be done wherever you are.
Take baby steps
If in doubt, take it slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your post-pandemic routine!
It’s important not to beat yourself up if others are moving at a faster than you. The thought of big indoor gatherings to come making you pre-emptively stressed? Try something small, like going for an after-work drink with a few friends.
It’s also worth asking about flexible working options, if it will make you feel more comfortable.
Better still, why not reward yourself each time you tackle each challenge? We might not be children anymore, but positive reinforcement has a proven track record in building resilience, AKA our ability to adapt to uncertainty and overcome stressful situations.
For a real treat, try our guide to a relaxing bath for the perfect end to your workday!
Deep breathing is your best friend
Taking a few moments to breathe is one of the best ways you can anchor yourself. From social anxiety to work stress, whatever your mind is up against, your body’s got you covered. As has Flight Mode!
Featuring soothing lavender and uplifting lemon, with peppermint to promote positivity, our Mood Rescue rollerball pairs beautifully with deep breaths. Plus, with tea tree, eucalyptus and majoram to purify the air, decongest and boost natural immunity, it helps you feel secure on-the-go in more ways than one. There’s a reason it just won an Editor’s Choice Beauty Shortlist Wellbeing Award!
Simply unscrew, roll on wrists and inhale deeply – until you feel the air reaching your belly. Make sure to keep your inhales and exhales the same length, and use your diaphragm for maximum impact.
Want to check your breathing form? Learn to breathe the way nature intended here.
We love adding to this ritual with a mantra. Why not create one that addresses your anxious thoughts? Think: “I will enjoy being in the office again,” or “My friends will respect my boundaries.”
Find more practical tips for supporting mental health here.
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