As we begin on the roadmap towards “normal life” it’s normal to feel mixed emotions.
Seeing your summer days fill up with hair appointments, coffee dates and nights out can be exciting, but it can also be quite overwhelming.
We spoke to psychologists Niamh Fitzpatrick and Dr Clare Kambamettu about how to reconnect with others and ease yourself back into life as we once knew it.
1. Be OK with feeling nervous or overwhelmed
Remember back to when lockdown and restrictions started. We were all a little nervous then! It is just as normal to be nervous to return to a reality we haven’t seen in more than a year.
Niamh says, “Don’t expect it to be a breeze because that’s not necessarily realistic. Over the coming months as life begins to go back to how it was, you are going to essentially return to a skillset that you haven’t used in the same way for the past 18 months. Allow for that. Allow for the awkwardness. Allow for a period of adjustment while you settle back into being around people more.” Clare adds that you should give yourself permission to feel what you feel. “If you are exhausted, anxious, stressed, low, that is entirely normal. You have just survived a pandemic! As we start to feel excited and happy about things changing it can be harder to know that it’s ok not to feel ok because are meant to be relieved right? The stress that this experience has placed on us for well over a year is huge and it will take time to recover from it.”
2. Start slowly and go at your own pace
Slow and steady wins the race, right? Well, a slow pace might just be the perfect way to ease yourself back into life.
Niamh explains, “Just because everything is starting to open back up it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything all at once. Take your time. Begin with small ways to reconnect that you’re comfortable with, find your feet and move from there.” Clare adds that it’s about taking your time to adjust. She adds: “You might feel pressure to do everything you can do as we reopen society, but it took time for you to adjust to living in lockdown ad it will take to adjust to living with new rules now too. It’s OK to say no to things your friends might be planning.”
3. Do the basics right
Just because lockdown is easing doesn’t mean you have to throw away every part of your lockdown routine.
“As hard as it is, do the basics right,” Clare stresses. “Get enough sleep, eat well if you can, try and reduce screen time, and try do some exercise. Stress has a big impact on our body and these basic things can support our health when life is hard.”
4. Acknowledge your strengths and back yourself
One strength you have is surviving a pandemic (you should be proud!).
Niamh says, “You have survived 18 months of a global pandemic. These have been some of the toughest times in living memory and yet you have adapted, adjusted, and accommodated huge changes into your life. Acknowledge that and be proud of yourself and realise that this is the you that’s going back out into the world. You have shown capability beyond what you would ever have imagined, so trust yourself to navigate the next step.”
5. Gather support from family and friends
If you are feeling overwhelmed or nervous about reconnecting with others and returning to normal life, be sure to reach out to a loved one. If you’re feeling this way, it’s likely others are too! Niamh explains: “People the world over have struggled with different aspects of the past 18 months, you’re not alone in that, so let those you love know if you’re feeling unsure and uncomfortable going back into the world. You might say something like: ‘I don’t need you to fix it, but I just need to tell you that part of me wants to stay in my bubble and is worried about mixing again and whether I’m able for it still.’ Ask for that support.”
6. Seek professional help if needed
Clare concludes that if you’re feeling really down: “Get help if you need it.”
“Tell a trusted adult how you are feeling and ask for them to help you contact your GP, Jigsaw ect. If you don’t have a trusted adult, contact Childline.”
Niamh agrees adding: “Seek professional help if your feelings truly stop you from living your life, it’s OK to need a helping hand getting on track sometimes, there’s no shame in that.”
Useful Contacts and Websites (make sure to swipe right to the second picture too)
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While these are helpful tips it is important to remember that everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for someone else. Take your time. You have your whole life to socialise and have fun! After more than a year of restrictions and lockdowns you deserve to give yourself some breathing space.
By Lauren Allen