Covid restrictions are being eased (hallelujah!), and after so many months of looking forward to some freedom, we’re finally allowed to go to the pub, albeit outdoors in all weathers. April in Manchester saw 20 degrees one day, and snowing sideways the next! Nothing unusual then!
We would expect to be supremely happy at the return to (some sort of) normality, but what if we’re feeling panicky, anxious, and suddenly find ourselves mumbling excuses as to why we can’t meet our mates?
Whatever we’re feeling right now, whether it’s wee-in-our-pants excitement, slightly sick-at-the-back-of-our-mouths worry, or something in between, it’s totally normal. If we have got sweaty palms at the thought of crowds in Primark or tummy butterflies at the prospect of meeting friends, let's understand what's actually happening in the backstage of our minds.
Some of us may have learnt to enjoy the cosy comfort of staying home and pressing the ‘pause’ button on our worries about the future. The pandemic might have taught us to slow down, relax, sit back, and park our adventurous plans for some other time. We might have even learnt to embrace boredom (it’s actually good for the brain, read our blog here). We had put our thinking about the future on standby.
What’s happening now is that the future is sneaking back into our everyday lives. Suddenly we realise that we can - or have to - start making plans again and perhaps even set new goals. Gulp!
The Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard describes anxiety as the dizziness of freedom. We think this beautiful expression does a cracking job of describing the situation some of us might be facing.
“Freedom could translate into too many possibilities, and we may struggle to find a way through these and a path to follow. As a consequence, we might experience a paralysis for the boundless possibilities.” Martina Ratto, Cognitive Scientist
One of the reasons why we could be feeling anxious is that the part of our mind that is responsible for planning, organising, exploring possibilities, and pursuing our goals, (called executive function) has been sound asleep in a cozy hibernation for months!
Fret not! Martina Ratto, our frankly delightful Cognitive Scientist, shares some tips on how to face the new, the uncertain, and the downright scary (like our social calendars) without panicking:
Teeny tiny baby steps
Take one step at a time: starting with small, achievable goals will help us to keep things within our control, without being overwhelmed by big life objectives. So perhaps meeting a close friend or two for a cuppa would be easier than planning a family holiday with Auntie Dorothy, Uncle Errol, and all the cousins, nieces and nephews to Greece in September. Home Alone, anyone?
It wasn’t all bad
Keep some of the routines that we started during lockdown which make us feel good. We’ve perhaps learnt to listen to some of our needs we weren't aware of before and have been practising a spot of self-care (anyone else been taking long, luxurious bubble baths much more often? My husband has!). Whatever we’ve been pursuing in lockdown whether it’s having a better work/life balance, learning a new language, or waking up naturally, let’s keep the good stuff in this new chapter of our lives.
Blank pages in the calendar are ok, phew!
Take the opportunity of a clean slate: we don't need to dive back into all of our past plans. Accept some of them might have gone for good (and we might be thankful for that) and enjoy a new start. Take it easy, make plans if that feels right, but remember to leave some breathing space too.
Learn to say “no”
This can be a tricky one. The gold standard remains “thanks for the invite, but I won’t make it”. We don’t need to give excuses or justify ourselves to anyone else. Each of us will adjust to society reopening again in our own time. It’s fine to say “no” to invitations, including baby showers, weddings, bar mitzvahs, picnics in the park, and Tango dancing (never again!). If saying “no” feels tough watch our vlog on askers versus guessers here. It might give you an interesting insight!
Final thoughts: Be gentle with yourself. We’re all figuring out how to live again after a year of restrictions. Need to shut yourself in a dark room and binge watch Netflix for a few weeks or months until you feel ready to face the world? Do it. We’re with you.