The dumpster fire that is the COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on all of us – for so many reasons.
But after the initial shock of being ‘locked down’ turned into our ‘new normal’, some of us might be surprised to find that the easing restrictions feel like a whole new thing to be afraid of. We thought we’d be running towards the metaphorical light at the end of a socially distanced tunnel, but instead we find ourselves approaching with caution.
When the pandemic first hit, our mental health might have taken a beating – particularly those of us already living with complex mental health issues. Symptoms and vulnerabilities may have flared up, as key parts of the recovery we’d built for ourselves were suddenly out-of-bounds. And we may have found ourselves longing for things to go back to 'normal'.
But now that restrictions are actually easing? It might surprise us that we're not feeling as excited as we thought. Yes, the chance to finally see a close friend might fill us with joy – of course it does! But the thought of venturing out into the world again? That can feel scary!
After the initial shock wore off, some of us found that we actually got used to being holed up at home. We found new ways of spending our time, reassessed what was important to us, and found safety in our little cocoons. Transitioning back into society can feel like a huge change all over again, and this can throw us off-kilter.
So, whether we're nervous about the coronavirus itself, reluctant to change routine AGAIN, or struggling in some other way – how can we look after our mental health as restrictions ease?
Firstly, we can be kind to ourselves. As with the beginning of the pandemic, none of us know exactly how to cope with this next transition. It's new to all of us. There's nothing 'wrong' with us if we're feeling anxious at this time – it's completely normal when going through a big change.
Secondly, we can remember that talking to friends, family or mental health professionals can help us keep perspective and meet our basic needs for connection and belonging.
And thirdly? It's ok to be cautious and take things slow. If we don't feel comfortable having visitors to our home yet – we don't have to! If we'd still rather shop online than go to the supermarket, that's ok too. Introducing one new element to our routine at a time can help us move at a pace that suits us.
It's also worthwhile to check in on the people we love. Being there for someone else can give us purpose. If someone in our life is an essential worker, has lost their job or has been struggling with home-schooling children, we can reach out and offer support.
Those of us who have faced mental health challenges before COVID-19 may have already developed really great strategies to cope with tough times.
We are strong. We are resilient. And we will get through this – one day at a time.
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below. How are you feeling about the easing restrictions, and what are you doing to cope?
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