This year has been extraordinarily challenging for so many of us around the world. The social, economic and emotional implications of the global pandemic have had a huge impact on our lives.
As our lockdown restrictions ease, it is completely normal to experience varying degrees of anxiety, stress and fear about emerging back into the world. You may be looking forward to having some degree of normality and routine back in your life, but you may also be feeling anxious about adjusting to life, post-lockdown.
Experiencing worry or apprehension about your health and the health of your loved ones is completely normal. Many of us may also feel anxious about social distancing, regular hand washing, mask-wearing and embracing the elbow greeting instead of our much-loved handshakes and hugs.
The most important thing to remember is that you can come out of lockdown at your own pace. The shops and restaurants may be open, but you don’t need to head out and visit them until you feel comfortable to do so.
Anxiety can present in many different ways, and we may not always notice anxiety until we take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
- Feeling overwhelmed or stressed
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling sadness or fear
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased heart rate, sweaty hands, upset stomach or fatigue
- Irritability or frustration
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating or restlessness
When several aspects of our lives feel uncertain or out of our control, one of the most effective ways we can manage anxiety is to focus on the aspects that are in our control.
Whatever emotions you are feeling, remind yourself that it’s okay to feel them. Allow yourself the time to recognise what you are feeling and express them in whatever way feels right for you. You may benefit from talking to a friend, journaling, drawing or meditating. A few minutes per day of meditation can be extremely helpful to promote relaxation, self-awareness and grounding during a difficult time. Guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm app can be great places to start, and most apps are free to use.
A healthy diet has a greater impact on your mood than you might think.
Eating plenty of whole-foods, fruit and vegetables can contribute to an overall feeling of wellness and vitality, while the nutrients in these types of foods will support a healthy immune system.
Exercise is another excellent way to support your mental and physical health. Getting outside to walk, run or ride a bike will not only fill your body with endorphins, it’ll provide an essential dose of Vitamin D to keep your immune system strong. Spending time in nature has been shown to promote relaxation and overall mental health, so, choosing to exercise in beautiful, nature-rich places may have a bigger impact than you thought.
A sour schedules slowly become busier again, getting enough sleep is essential in our ability to manage the added stress that this brings. Create a sleep routine that works for you, and stick to it! In order to optimise the quality of sleep, avoid spending time behind a TV, computer or phone screen in the hour prior to going to bed. If you struggle getting to sleep at night, try a chamomile tea before bed and some lavender essential oil in a diffuser in your bedroom to help calm your nervous system.
If you are feeling nervous about getting out into the world again, head out with a trusted friend and create a plan of action together, so you know what to expect. Visiting shops and parks during quieter times of the day can reduce the social load and may help you feel more comfortable getting out and about again. Reaching out to friends and family for support is one of the most effective ways to deal with challenges and stress in our day-to-day lives. Planning coffee dates or lunches with small groups of friends is a great way to enjoy being out of the house, and visiting familiar cafes can also help to reduce the nerves.
Most of us do not practice mindfulness daily, and to many, the idea of sitting and ‘switching off your mind’ sounds frustrating and impossible. Fear not! Mindfulness doesn’t have to be difficult, and it certainly doesn’t have to take long. You may benefit from simply taking yourself out for a walk and consciously noticing all the sights, smells, sounds that surround you. This is a form of mindfulness and can help you relax. A daily yoga practice is another great way to slow down your mind and come back to your body, which we often struggle to do when anxiety hits. Simply taking the time to check in with yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do to manage stress.