Techniques for controlling post-lockdown anxiety

As businesses start to reopen and small outdoor gatherings become the new way to see friends and family (albeit with social distancing measures in place), it feels like lockdown easing is beginning to gain momentum.

It’s what many of us have been waiting for, but despite that, it’s not unusual for these developments to provoke mixed feelings, perhaps of apprehension, worry and anxiety.

The world is a different place than it was just a few months ago and resuming lifestyles, habits and activities that before felt safe and normal, can now feel strange, and even daunting.

The first thing to understand is that feelings of post-lockdown anxiety are perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of. After all, coronavirus is still something we need to do our best to control, so feeling anxious about once again going out into the world isn’t irrational. In fact, we must all understand our continuing responsibility to stick to social distancing guidelines even as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.

That said, it’s also important that post-lockdown anxiety does not prevent us from living and enjoying our lives. There are several ways to help alleviate feelings of post-lockdown anxiety, as we explore here.

What does post-lockdown anxiety feel like?

No two people will experience any kind of anxiety in exactly the same way, and that’s true of post-lockdown anxiety too.

Generally speaking though, if you are feeling post-lockdown anxiety, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed and/or fearful about the fact that lockdown is beginning to lift, and how you and others around you will readjust to life in the coming weeks and months. You may have had trouble sleeping and/or found yourself compulsively checking or reading the latest news or social media. In some cases, people experiencing post-lockdown anxiety may have had panic attacks.

These feelings are valid; coronavirus has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on our lives. Post-lockdown or coronavirus anxiety is the brain’s way of registering and alerting you to a threat.

If you find yourself feeling anxious, it’s important to give yourself time to get used to the ‘new normal’ and to be kind to yourself in the meantime. Here are some other techniques for controlling post-lockdown anxiety that may help.

How can I control post-lockdown anxiety?

Try a breathing exercise

When we feel anxious, our bodies often trigger a physical stress response, which causes the heart to beat faster and the breath to become quicker and more shallow.

Deep breathing techniques are one of the most effective ways to counter the stress response and calm the body and mind. When you experience feelings of anxiety, try the ‘double calm’ breathing exercise by exhaling (breathing out) for double the length of time that you inhale (breathe in).

For example, try counting to four as you inhale through your nose, then exhale for eight through pursed lips. Then inhale for five through your nose, and exhale for 10 through pursed lips, and so on.

Focus on what you can and can’t control

It can help to think about and list the things in your life that you have control over, as well as those that you don’t. Usually, you’ll find that the list of things you can control is longer, which can be empowering in itself.

And, if there’s something you’ve enjoyed doing during the lockdown, try to make it a priority to continue doing it even as lockdown starts to lift. Making conscious decisions like this can help us to feel more autonomy over the things we can control.

Create calming habits

If you find yourself repeatedly doing things that make your anxiety worse, such as checking the news, try to break the cycle by doing something that makes you feel calm instead.

This could be relaxing with a feel-good boxset, reading a book, exercising, listening to music – whatever gets your mind off things and helps you feel at peace. Sensory anchors can be beneficial too; objects that encourage feelings of calm through sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. Lavender essential oil is a popular choice among those who experience anxiety. Try dabbing a few drops on your wrists or spraying your pillow with a sleep mist.

Remember what you’re capable of

Feelings of post-lockdown or coronavirus anxiety are often linked to the many changes and unknowns we anticipate when thinking about life after the pandemic.

However, we’ve already dealt with enormous changes since the beginning of lockdown. At the beginning of the year, no one could have predicted that we would be spending several months away from our friends, families and workplaces, yet we’ve managed to adapt and deal with this unprecedented situation.

Remembering this is key. Chances are you have successfully managed many big changes in your life, such as moving home and starting a new job. It’s important to remind yourself that you will eventually adjust to life after lockdown too, and to allow yourself time to do so.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing post-lockdown anxiety, we can help. Find out more about helping someone with anxiety, or get in touch with us to learn more about dealing with anxiety.