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6 tips to manage restriction-easing-anxiety

With the news of restrictions completely easing on the 19th of July, although grateful to be able to move back to reality, many of us are feeling apprehensive again. It’s more change and we’re still uncertain as things open up, and many are questioning if it’s the right time, is it safe and will we end up back in lockdown by September?



Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future, we don’t fully know what will happen, but we can choose how to react to this news - we don’t need to rush to follow new ‘rules’ or the long-awaited lack of, we can choose not to jump back into the melting pot of life straight away, and we can choose what we want to do.


It’s completely normal to feel anxious, stressed and concerned, so we have some tips to help:


1. Go at your own pace

We’ve said it before, and we'll keep saying it (even in a pandemic-free world). Take things at your own pace, and just because things are open, we can go out, we can go to big events and large gatherings doesn’t mean we have to. We didn’t feel the need to do everything all the time before the pandemic (or we might have but maybe we weren’t enjoying it too much), and we don’t need to now. The restriction easing is new guidance to follow at your own pace and decision, do what you like to do and leave what you don’t. And if you’re not ready to bin your mask yet, you’re not the only one.


2. Don’t avoid things entirely

Although daunting, the idea of staying in lockdown isn’t all that appealing either. Don’t avoid things entirely, try to make smaller plans and stick with what you feel ready for. If we completely avoid doing things, they’ll feel much harder to do in the long run and we’ll likely feel more anxious about missing out, so arrange one or two things, even if they’re small for now.



3. Challenge unhelpful thoughts

We tend to have unhelpful and irrational thoughts in times of stress and anxiety - you know the ones that question our every move or doubt the decisions we make or catastrophise any situation - for example, “If I go to a restaurant now, I’ll definitely get sick”. This could cause us a lot of stress and anxiety and put us off going out anywhere. Fact check these unhelpful or irrational thoughts, what evidence is there? How do I know this to be true? Can I prove this? If we don’t have much evidence for these unhelpful thoughts we can begin to change the narrative to something more helpful, like “I could get COVID but I have been to three restaurants now without getting ill”. Don’t let unhelpful thoughts get in your way.


4. Make flexible plans for your time

We know structure can give us back a sense of control, especially in these uncertain times. Planning our time, whether it’s working hours, free time, social time or some much-needed me-time, can help us manage better. We can plan social things, time to meet responsibilities like cleaning the house, and time to relax and put our feet up. Keep plans flexible so we can easily adapt when things change or the weather doesn’t comply. And keep an even balance of outings and staying home that suits you. Planning helps us mentally prepare for the more challenging things while helping us to keep moving forward - plus if you know you can relax for a day after dinner with your friends it can make it all the more appealing to spend the time together.


5. Find relaxation techniques

Now being told to relax when in a period of heightened anxiety and stress is about as helpful as a chocolate teapot right? But when we make time to practice relaxation, in whatever way works for us, we equip ourselves with the skills to manage our anxiety when it does hit. Relaxation keeps stress and anxiety at bay, but when it does strike, think back to something that helps you relax, a breathing exercise, meditation, cooking, or even regular baths. We appreciate that if anxiety strikes when we’re out and about a bath isn’t necessarily possible, but you could list the process of having a bath in your head, or if you like cooking think of a recipe you follow - this distracts the brain from worry and brings you back to the present.



6. Talk about it

Many of us are feeling apprehensive about the easing, you’re not alone. Talk about how you’re feeling with the people around you, and listen to them too. If we keep the communication open, people can be more understanding and forgiving when we do need to change plans or politely decline invitations out. And you’ll feel much less alone in your worries which helps them to feel more manageable.

 

Final thoughts on social media: Some days we might feel raring to go and others are struck down with stress and anxiety about this new normal, both are ok and fluctuations between are not unusual. Whether you’re feeling good or not quite ready, watch your scrolling habits. Sitting on Instagram watching everyone have a wonderful time is a quick path to feeling rubbish about yourself and what they don’t show you is that the picnic they’re currently enjoying took the group chat 8 weeks to organise, several outfit changes, a mini-meltdown over cocktail sausages or carrot sticks, and pure luck that it’s still sunny!



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