by Niels Eék
As the lockdown restrictions continue to ease, the exciting prospect of going back to work and to a restored sense of normality could cause some nervousness and anxiety, especially after spending so long with limited face-to-face social contact.
Firstly, it is important to understand why this lockdown has had so many of us feeling more anxious than the last. In March 2020, we entered into the first national lockdown as Spring blossomed outside. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and we had little idea of what was yet to come. Many of us found ourselves investing newfound time into hobbies, crafts, and exercise. However, the past three months will have kept many of us separated from family and friends at a time of year when we would have usually been together celebrating the festive season and welcoming in the New Year.
Furthermore, the shorter, darker days of Winter can often leave us feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as ‘SAD’. Symptoms include anxiousness, an inability to concentrate, irritable behaviour, and low energy, which would go towards explaining why so many of us have struggled more with the most recent lockdown compared to the past. However, boosting the intake of vitamin D in your diet can alleviate some of the symptoms, such as fatigue, lack of concentration, and low mood.
Outside of this, the pandemic has inevitably caused a lot of uncertainty for all of us over the past year. Whether it is due to health concerns, financial worries, changes in personal circumstance or something else, most of us have had a low moment or two. However, there are techniques that can help us to overcome anxieties and allow us to come out of the lockdown with a positive spring in our step, making the transition back to normality feel less overwhelming.
On a practical level, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly have both been shown to help reduce anxiety and boost wellbeing. Regular exercise can be a great way to take your mind away from the worries that are causing you to feel anxious, whilst boosting feel-good hormones like endogenous cannabinoids. If you are prone to regular anxious thoughts and feelings then try to get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can have several negative health implications, amongst which are increased levels of anxiety.
Managing social unease
Although it is important to maintain good friendships, remember that it is okay to tell your friends and co-workers that you need some time out if you find yourself needing solitude as you adjust to regular interactions with people. It may take some time to adapt to the change in circumstances, but this is totally normal. It is likely that some of your friends will be feeling the same way, so having an open conversation can be the best way to work out the boundaries you all need. The most important thing is to ensure that you are articulating how you are feeling so that you don’t feel a mounting pressure to act in a certain way.
While many will be embracing the reopening of the nation, it is natural to feel isolated when others don’t seem to be nervous at all. The key is to consciously reframe your mindset. Acknowledge that you cannot control the current situation; however, you can control your reaction to it. Mindfulness and goal-setting can help manage how we react to the world around us and, in turn, put us more at ease.
While studies have found that mindful meditation can be a great way to help ease psychological stresses like anxiety and depression, journaling can also boost self-awareness by encouraging a form of reflection each day, making it easier to spot triggers or sources of stress in your day-to-day.
Becoming more mindful can help you to realise when you need external support with mental health, rather than ignoring issues as they arise. It is through conscious behaviour and reaction that we start to address the problems that we might be facing and can begin to deal with them, rather than glossing over those feelings, or allowing them to build up in the backs of our minds.
Looking after our mental wellbeing is as important as looking after our physical health. Apps like Remente offer users easy-to-use goal-setting tools, and tools to practice mindfulness as little or as often as needed, boosting wellbeing long term. However, if you are ever feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope, always seek help from your local GP, who can speak with you directly and/or refer you to a mental health specialist. You can also look to sites like Anxiety UK, Mind or Rethink Mental Illness for additional resources.