Feeling anxious about getting back to normal after the pandemic?
You’re not the only one.
A recent survey from Anxiety UK has found that 36% of people are feeling anxious about leaving their homes and would prefer to stay inside. After the ‘collective trauma’ of lockdowns, adjusting to a pre-pandemic routine is understandably a scary prospect. You may have heard a new phrase: ‘reopening anxiety’- which is being used to describe what is a very real experience for many of us.
At Trigger, we want to help you regain your confidence and support you on your journey towards a happier future with positive mental health.
We asked four leading experts in the mental health sector to share their advice on how you can overcome anxiety about returning to normal.
We hope their advice will help you.
Getting back to the new ‘normal’ is a process of psychological resilience and adjustment
“Many of us will still be processing the past 18 months, and recovering from emotional burnout, increased anxiety and depression, loss and grief, illness, financial stress, and in some cases trauma. So, getting back to normal is about adjusting to a new world – one that will have changed irreversibly due to the pandemic- and giving ourselves time to orientate to the new world whilst healing from the previous 18 months. Keep in mind that human beings are incredibly adaptable, and everyone will find their place in the world again, but be kind to yourself and others, as we are still collectively processing the experiences of the pandemic.”
– Advice from Lauren Callaghan, psychologist, and the author of How Can I Help?
Lauren Callaghan is an innovative, industry-leading psychologist based in Australia. She was a psychologist at the specialist national treatment centres for severe obsessional problems in the UK and is renowned as an expert in the field of mental health, recognised for diagnosing and successfully treating OCD and anxiety-related illnesses. Lauren is the author of several books including How Can I Help? 8 Ways You Can Support Someone You Care About with Anxiety or Obsessional Problems and How to Help Your Child with Worry and Anxiety: Activities and conversations for parents to help their 4-11-year-old.
Gently guide yourself from fight or flight to rest or digest
The best way to deal with anxiety is to get calm so you can access your logical brain and gain perspective.
To gently guide yourself from fight or flight to rest or digest:
• Give your brain a cognitive task to carry out. Try counting down from 100 in sevens or naming animals from A-Z. This helps shift the emotional brain towards the logical side.
• Relax. Try inhaling for a shorter count than you exhale or having a bath in Epsom salts before going out.
• Gain perspective. Once calm, fact-check your worries by running through what you know to be true about a situation, rather than letting your imagination run away with you. For example, if concerned about contracting Covid, remind yourself of the facts: those vaccinated with a single dose are 65% less likely to be infected. If your social anxiety is fuelled by a fear of negative judgement, run through your strengths and achievements to boost your confidence. Remind yourself you’ll be in the company of friends. Other groups will likely focus attention on their own group. Plus we’re all in the same boat; returning to a more social world together.
– Advice from Cheryl Rickman, the author of Navigating Loneliness
Cheryl Rickman is a Sunday Times best-selling author of empowering, practical books that help people improve their mental health. Her new book, Navigating Loneliness: How to Connect with Yourself and Others — A Mental Health Handbook is available at triggerhub.org.
Read a free extract from Cheryl Rickman’s new book Navigating Loneliness and learn how you can stop negative thoughts arising in a situation where you feel vulnerable.
A routine is an essential part of recovery
Any anxiety sufferer has to decide “am I going to fly or hide?” – am I going to undertake recovery, or hide, live in fear and muddle through?
Lockdown forced us to hide – physically at least – removing the need to ‘act normal’. But, for me, ‘acting normal’ was an essential part of recovery. The routine of everyday life and consequent interaction with others provides the framework within which I learned to manage my anxiety. When the framework was pulled from under me, literally overnight, I had to make difficult and rapid adjustments. I felt enormous relief – more than I expected – when restrictions started easing.
Let’s take this renewed opportunity to fly.
– Advice from Helena Tarrant, anxiety survivor and the author of Beating OCD and Anxiety
Helena Tarrant has practised CBT techniques for thirty years as a patient. She is the author and illustrator of Beating OCD and Anxiety: 75 Tried and Tested Strategies for Sufferers and their Supporters. She is a survivor of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Take small steps and reward yourself
This past year of the pandemic has dented the confidence of so many of us. So instead of being excited at the prospect of getting back to ‘normal life’, people are feeling anxious and ill-equipped for what seems like a mountain of major challenges. Just recently a friend and I were sharing how frightening our first walk down our local high street felt!
So how can we all regain our confidence and zest for life? Here are a few tips which I hope will help.
- Take baby steps first and then only gradually increase your challenges.
- Find a good friend with whom you can honestly share your experiences and feelings. Contrary to what many people think, confident people always have good support networks and use them freely.
- Replace your negative self-talk with encouragement.
- Reward yourself every time you take a successful step forward back into the world and back to being the person that you want to be and having the life you deserve.
– Advice from Gael Lindenfield, psychotherapist and the author of How to Feel Good in Difficult Times
Gael Lindenfield is a psychotherapist and a leading voice in confidence and self-help. She is the author of How to Feel Good in Difficult Times: Simple Strategies to Help You Survive and Thrive and Weathering the Storm: How to Build Confidence and Self Esteem in the Face of Adversity.