Coronavirus lockdown lifts: how to take care of your mental health as we enter a ‘new normal’

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Lauren Geall
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A woman anxious about lockdown easing

Whether you’re feeling anxious about returning to the office or want to learn more about setting boundaries in your friendships, here’s how to manage your mental health as lockdown eases. 

Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, there’s been a lot of discussion about how best to take care of our mental health during the pandemic. From dealing with feelings of isolation to managing our anxiety, for many people, lockdown has been an exercise in putting their mental health first.

As lockdown eases and we move into our ‘new normal’, putting our mental health first is more important than ever. Why? Because although for some people the easing of lockdown restrictions – as we saw this weekend with the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas – is a cause for celebration, for others, the prospect of lockdown ending and restrictions lifting is incredibly anxiety-inducing.

Indeed, even among those people who are happy to see lockdown easing, many are also worried about the impact the restrictions being lifted might have on the pandemic overall – especially as the threat of a second wave is still very real.

On top of all this, there’s the impact of going back to ‘normal’ after such a long time at home to think about. After three months spent sleeping more, limiting our social contact and baking banana bread, it’s highly likely that going back to work and wearing something other than loungewear (the horror) is going to be a shock to the system. 

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With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to dealing with all the mental health strains you might encounter over the coming months. From handling ‘return anxiety’ to navigating face-to-face interactions, we’ve got plenty of helpful tips and tricks to make the transition to post-lockdown life that little bit easier. 

Dealing with post-lockdown or return anxiety

Post-lockdown anxiety
Coronavirus lockdown lifts: how to deal with post-lockdown or return anxiety.

For many people, the idea of feeling anxious about life going back to normal is hard to wrap their heads around. Surely lockdown lifting should be a good thing, right?

Although lockdown lifting might be a sign that the number of coronavirus cases in the UK is dropping, it doesn’t mean the threat of the virus has been eradicated completely. As a result, many people might dread getting back to normal because there’s still a chance they could come into contact with the virus, even if that chance has been reduced. 

For many people, lockdown has also provided the chance to slow down and put things into perspective, making the idea of returning to their pre-coronavirus busy lives anxiety-inducing. 

Learn more about why you might be experiencing return anxiety, and how to deal with it.

Handling friendships and socialising

Two friends during lockdown
Coronavirus lockdown lifts: how to tell your friends you're not ready to meet up yet.

In all areas of the UK, people can now meet up with others from outside their household as long as they maintain social distancing. However, if you don’t feel ready to meet up – or feel uncomfortable with the idea of attending a 30-person BBQ – it’s OK to say you’re not ready.

Learn more about managing conversations with your friends and establishing boundaries as lockdown eases.

Returning to work

A woman on her laptop with a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus lockdown lifts: how to handle anxiety about returning to work.

At the moment, the government advice maintains that people should work from home wherever possible. But as the hospitality industry opens up and lockdown continues to lift, it’s likely many of us will be returning to the office over the next couple of months.

Returning to the workplace after so long spent at home is likely to be a stressful experience. Besides the fact that we’ll all have new health and safety regulations to abide by, just going back to work and spending your day surrounded by people again is probably going to be overwhelming.

Learn more about how to handle anxiety about going back to work and how to recalibrate your sleep schedule for post-lockdown life.

Being around people again

Coronavirus social distancing
Coronavirus lockdown lifts: how to handle anxiety about leaving the house and being near people again.

After so long spent at home away from other people, simple things such as leaving the house, visiting a public place and being in close proximity to other people can be particularly anxiety-inducing.

If you’re finding being around out of the house and around people again particularly stressful, it’s important to take things at your own pace – even if that means staying inside for a little bit longer.

Learn more about how to handle anxiety around leaving the house and how to cope with your fear of being around people again.

Coping with anxiety

If you’re dealing with feelings of anxiety and worry during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to understand that this is a completely normal response to the current situation. However, if you’re looking for a way to alleviate some of those feelings, here’s three articles that might help.

For more information on anxiety, including what it is and how to cope, you can check out the NHS Every Mind Matters website or visit Mind.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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