Feeling anxious at the prospect of coming out of lockdown? You are not alone. Our wellbeing consultant, Jen Wood, shares her thoughts here about how to help combat post lockdown anxiety.

"The transition into lockdown was difficult for most of us, and it has brought fear, illness, grief, and loss of income and livelihood for some. However, many of us have gotten used to it. We may have welcomed the chance to live at a slower pace with fewer social demands.

Now that we have got used to our ‘bubbles’, not having to wear makeup or spend too much time worrying about what to wear, thinking about coming out of lockdown may have brought up conflicting emotions. We may be looking forward to some things, like seeing more of our friends and family, but we may be anxious, angry or confused about some of the other changes ahead.

During lockdown the rules were clear. But now that restrictions are lifting, there is more uncertainty, which often causes us to feel stressed or anxious. We are creatures of habit, and when things change fast, we experience stress. We are still finding out what the ‘new normal’ will look like.

A recent survey by Anxiety UK has described ‘post lockdown anxiety’ as the fear or worry of returning to normal life and leaving lockdown. Many people had become so used to being at home that they were afraid of sharing office space again, being on public transport, and seeing family and friends.

Signs of ‘lockdown anxiety’ could be not sleeping, constant worrying about what things will be like, worrying about getting ill or not being able to stop watching the news. Other warning signs are soothing our worries with alcohol or other substances, Netflix or too much online shopping.

So what can we do about it?

The good news is that there is a lot that we can do to help ourselves. Here are some suggestions.

  • Take small steps as we ease ourselves back into the ‘new normal’ post lockdown. Small steps allow our nervous system to adjust. If we feel overwhelmed, thinking about the next few minutes can help us to feel calmer.
  • Focus on the things that we can control rather than everything that we can’t do anything about.
  • Stay grounded and present in our bodies. When we feel overwhelmed, if we can come back to our body, we can regulate our emotions and build our inner strength. Imagine that you are a tree and have roots growing out of the soles of your feet, which help you feel connected to the earth.
  • Be kind to ourselves. What kindness can you offer yourself today?
  • Breathe. Breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11 (reduce to 5 and 8 if that’s too long) can help to activate our ‘relaxation response’. If you can slow your breath down gradually, you will settle your anxiety.
  • Be aware of the ‘hamster wheel’ in your head. One way of breaking the pattern of rumination is to do something physical like dancing or bouncing. Even just standing and imagining that you are shaking the anxiety off your body. Good music helps!
  • Walk in nature. The Japanese call this ‘forest bathing’ because it’s so good for stress. Take off your shoes and feel the grass under your feet. Vitamin D from the sun is essential for our health, and as Scots, we can be naturally low in it.
  • Talk kindly to ourselves.The most important words we hear are the ones we say to ourselves. Find a personal mantra. ‘You’ve got this!’
  • Talk about our feelings and seek help when we need it. Better out than in.
  • Try this mindfulness practice to settle the mind."

Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, therapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 years’ experience. She is also our wellbeing consultant at The Yard. Jen is offering weekly bite-sized videos sharing mindfulness techniques and wellbeing tools for our members. For more information about Jen, visit jenwoodwellbeing.com.