I’ve been quite candid with my journey with anxiety throughout this pandemic. You can check out my previous article which I wrote almost a year ago, when the world grinded to a halt and I was whisked back to Singapore in a whirlwind.
Since last year, I’ve lived through 2 lockdowns in Singapore and 2 lockdowns in Manchester so I’d say I’m the unwilling expert. However I didn’t expect the END of lockdown to bring a sledgehammer to the brick wall that was my mental health.
Enter: Post Lockdown Anxiety.
Post Lockdown Anxiety is the increase in anxiety associated with leaving lockdown and returning to ‘normal life’. I couldn’t understand why the idea of being able to meet 6 friends outdoors was suddenly overwhelming for me when a month ago all I wanted was to go back to normal.
Now I’ve realised that I have my new normal. I have a routine that I’m comfortable with. Lockdowns forced me to set new boundaries which gave me a sense of peace in difficult times. The end of lockdown means leaving my normal for something entirely new.
If you’ve been feeling a similar way please understand that you aren’t alone, countless articles by the BBC, Anxiety UK and other mental health organisations have documented a rise in young people reporting worries and fears surrounding the end of lockdown. As well as me, your friendly neighbourhood student news blogger.
So how have I been managing my post-lockdown anxiety? Keep reading to find out!
1. Baby Steps
Take things one step at a time!
I met friends initially one-on-one and have been gradually increasing how much social activity I’ve been taking part in. As someone who’s a bit more introverted, I’ve really been trying to focus on relearning how to navigate social environments. I’ve been going for walks in the park, having picnics and exploring new areas of Manchester and I’ve returned home feeling energised rather than socially drained.
I’ve found personally that I was much more motivated to go out to a restaurant once a week than having 3 bookings 3 times a week in 3 different places. I could focus on managing my anxiety for one event and getting through that one event without feeling overwhelmed. Being
able to do that has made me much more confident in myself and helped dissipate my anxiety a little bit.
It’s normal not to feel up to the same level of socialising after being limited for so long and taking gradual steps is a good way to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed.
2. Don’t ditch the lockdown routine
Was lockdown all doom and gloom? Not necessarily! I finally had time to practise my clarinet, I can now wing my eyeliner and have developed fun new traditions in my flat.
I developed many coping mechanisms which brought a great deal of comfort to me during lockdown and the idea of suddenly changing my routine brings me a great deal of discomfort.
Your new lockdown routine has been a source of stability for so many months. Just because gyms and restaurants are open now doesn’t mean you need to rush to make the adjustment right away. If you’ve found a routine in home workouts or takeaways, maybe alternate going out and staying in. I’ve kept a set bedtime and waking up time in the morning and that gives my days a structure.
If like me, routines and schedules provide you with comfort then don’t rush to find a new routine immediately, take the best parts of lockdown life and carry them forward as long as you can. The shift will come naturally and you can make sure it’s on your terms!
3. Remember what you can control
Feeling at a loss of control is the bedrock of my anxiety. As someone who loves routine and planning ahead it’s been disconcerting not being able to do so. I’ve found a good way to cope has been to create a table with 2 headings, what I can control and what I can’t control.
If you’ve read my previous article on how I manage my lockdown anxiety then this approach should seem familiar! I’ve found that my table during lockdown and post lockdown has dramatically changed. For example, things I can control are: using public transport at off-peak times, wearing a mask when I leave the house, taking a break from the news for a while.
For what I can’t control, I return to my coping methods. With lockdown lifting and the rare Manchester sun making an appearance I’ve found that my coping mechanisms can evolve too! Check out this article for updates on what’s going on in Manchester or how to make the most of spring this year. If you want to plan ahead you can read Kirstie’s article on what it’s like to be back on campus.
If you ever find that you need more support don’t hesitate to reach out to your GP and read up on how university can provide mental health support too.