Pressured to make plans after lockdown?
Whilst we have all been eagerly waiting for lockdown restrictions to ease, it’s safe to say that what seems like the end of an era (excited to wave isolation goodbye for good) has left many of us feeling confused about what’s next. Toasting with big groups of friends over the newly-found freedom seems like the dream until you’re physically faced with the challenge of stepping outside your front door.
Post-lockdown anxiety is a real deal: how do you unlearn months of isolation and become the social butterfly everyone is expecting you to be? Psychotherapist Ruairi Stewart states that “there are definitely going to be challenges for people easing back into their ‘normal’ routines” and, rightly so, when Instagram feeds get filled with bubbly brunches and picturesque hotel views… like nothing ever happened.
If coming out of lockdown and having to make plans again feels like more of a challenge than relief, the important thing to note is that you’re not alone. In fact, clinical psychologist Dr. Emma Svanberg details that, in a time filled with change on what is and is not acceptable, moving into a different state of rules can feel odd; ‘we are having to get used - yet again - to a whole new set of social norms, and they can be really anxiety-provoking. As humans, we tend to feel most comfortable when we know what is expected of us, and, because this is all so new, there will be a process of figuring out what works for us.’
While feelings of anxiety related to getting back out there are completely normal, being surrounded by friends and family who feel completely comfortable about it can leave you feeling a little lonelier than normal. If the pressure to make plans is playing havoc with your mental health, here are a few proactive steps you can take to keep your FOMO in check:
1. Set your own pace
Acknowledging that you need to set some social boundaries is completely fine - it might even make those experiences you actually want to be part of more memorable. Dr. Ruairi backs up the point: ‘You aren’t expected to be totally comfortable transitioning out of lockdown; allow yourself some compassion as you adjust to all the new changes in your life - starting with really small, manageable changes is one of the best things you can do’. Whilst some people find it easier to transition back to normality (or its new sense), everyone’s capacity to adjust to change is majorly different. No guilt tripping allowed!
2. Use technology to your advantage
You’ve done it for so long, it is now second nature! After embracing so many new ways to connect with others, some people are bound to stick to URL over IRL. And, rightly so, communicating online can feel like a much safer space. “In many cases, our friends and family will be understanding of the decision to stay inside. It’s important to use technology to stay in touch with people, whether it’s through social media or group video calls. This can be a great way to keep in touch with people and stay connected without leaving home too much,” Romotsky says.
3. Be open about your feelings
As much as the social butterflies in your life might seem like they are having none of your post-lockdown attachment to your home, being open and honest goes a long way. ‘It is so important to allow yourself to communicate so you can be supported and know that you don’t have to tough this out on your own’, says Dr. Ruairi. Reminding those around that experiencing anxiety about returning to normality is completely normal might encourage them to recognise those feelings in themselves too, and it will reassure them that they’re not alone in fighting it either.
4. Ease back in
Whilst most post-lockdown gatherings you hear about tend to be in bars and restaurants, remind yourself that there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the ease of restrictions. For many people, going back to normality isn’t as straightforward and being able to enjoy a pint in a busy pub garden. If the idea gives you chills, note that there you’ve got so many other options. From going to an exhibition to attending a gym class, journalist Lauren Geall rounds up some activities that might feel lighter on your mental health than a meal out in an overbooked restaurant.