How to handle post-lockdown anxiety

Nervous about going 'back to normal?' You're not the only one. London Met psychologist Dr Phil Parker offers his top coping strategies, and how you can support others.

Date: 23 June 2021

The last year has been strange and unexpected in many ways. The stress of having to deal with the global crisis of Covid, the possibility of illness and bereavement and the general uncertainty has taken its toll on our mental wellbeing. One of the ways we usually deal with such threats is by connecting with others- but even this has been impossible over the last year. As a result, many of us have been feeling the pressure of living in this strange version of the world.

Now that things are opening up again there is an expectation that everybody will be happy getting 'back to normal'. But this long-term stress from the last year's events and our reduced socialising, has resulted in many people being concerned about things returning to 'normal'. This has been described as 'post-lockdown anxiety'.

The issues stem from concerns and worries that many are now having about a range of previously familiar events. These include picking up your old routine, going out of the house, using public transport, meeting people again, dating, being in crowds. These kinds of concerns are quite reasonable as your brain and body have just got very unused to these previously familiar experiences.

Luckily there are many things you can do to find your way through this situation. First of all, realise that many other people are feeling exactly the same - so you are not alone. Also as a result people will be a little more considerate than usual of those who are finding it difficult.

Top tips to manage post-lockdown anxiety

  • Reintroduce yourself to the world in a gentle, kind and paced way. Take it in small steps doing one thing at a time starting with the things you find easiest and most fun and building up to the things that you've been finding more challenging.
  • It can be useful to go out with people that you find are really supportive and help you to connect with your happy, easy socialising self.
  • Spend some time thinking about moments in the past where you have found it easy to be in these kinds of situations. By connecting with these memories it will remind your brain and body exactly how to feel.
  • Combining socialising with exercising, going for walks, runs, to the gym, dancing, singing with others can be a really valuable way of getting back into being with others. This is because both exercising and socialising releases hormones that boost well-being and bonding with others

Finally, for those of you who are excited about restrictions ending and regaining more normality, but who want to support those who are more nervous: Be patient and understanding of what's going on if your friends are suffering from this. Consider helping them with some of the suggestions above, listen to them as they plan the best route for them to get back into the flow of socialising. Support them to take their first small steps back into the world, helping them to regain their trust in their ability to flourish in the 'new normal'.