As pubs reopen and people across the UK ease out of lockdown, it feels strange to be taking things at your own pace – especially when the definition of what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is becoming increasingly blurred, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall.
If you were to scroll through my social media feed this morning, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the coronavirus pandemic had never really happened.
Shots of friends toasting their newfound freedom and loud videos of bustling pubs took centre stage on Instagram Stories. Gone were the screenshots of virtual pub quizzes and new lockdown hobbies – fresh haircuts and aperol spritzes were all anyone could talk about.
As someone who did not go to a pub yesterday – and probably won’t for some time – it felt surreal to see so many people returning to normal life. I, for one, am not ready to dive back into nights at the pub and meals out with friends – the idea of being in a crowded space when the threat of coronavirus is still pretty high is just not something I feel comfortable with. For now, I know going to the pub would not be worth the panic and anxiety I’d feel as a result.
But at the same time, last night, something within me felt conflicted. Indeed, despite knowing I’m not ready to go out – and feeling comfortable in my decision to take things at my own pace – as I scrolled through my social media feed last night, I felt only one thing: FOMO.
Watching people let their hair down and shake off some of the rigidity of the last four months, it was hard not to feel a bit sad that I wasn’t there, too. And even as I watched people on social media criticise the packed scenes in Soho and Borough Market, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be there.
The thing is, I know that going out – especially to somewhere as crowded as central London – just isn’t a good idea right now. I’m not judging those who chose to go – after all, the government told everyone it was safe to do so – but seeing so many people so close together while a virus is still in general circulation is undoubtedly a very bad idea. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say watching all those people gathered in one place made me pretty damn anxious.
If anything, my FOMO (fear of missing out) is a reminder of how confusing the process of easing lockdown has become. As the government shifts responsibility from their hands into those of the British public, the definitions of ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible’ behaviour are becoming increasingly blurred, leaving many of us feeling unsure about how best to navigate the threat of coronavirus.
The divide between the government’s messaging and the number of people still dying on a daily basis also makes things hard to compute. Being told to “eat out to help out” at the same time as Public Health England posters warn us all to “stay alert” and “save lives” is the definition of mixed messaging – so it’s no surprise that so many of us are feeling torn between what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
For now, it’s important to remember that lockdown – and the easing of its rules – is something none of us have experienced before, so it’s OK if we all want to take things at a different pace. By all means, point out where people aren’t abiding by social distancing or breaching the rules (I think everyone can agree that the scenes in Soho were a nightmare) – but don’t get angry at people for going to their local because the government told them it was safe to do so.
At the same time, it’s OK if, like me, you don’t feel ready to go to the pub or meet up with friends. Now more than ever, it’s important to set boundaries and take time to reflect on what you do and don’t feel comfortable with – even if those boundaries might leave you with an unwelcome dose of FOMO in the meantime.
Coping with return anxiety
As lockdown eases and some parts of our lives begin to return to ‘normal,’ it’s completely normal to feel apprehensive and experience some return anxiety. After all, this is something none of us have ever gone through before – and it’s important to remember that however you’re feeling, those feelings are valid.
If you’re looking for help navigating the move to a new normal, here’s three articles that might help:
- How to tell your friends you’re not ready to meet up at the moment
- Anxious about being around people again as lockdown eases? Here’s how to handle it
- Worried about leaving the house after lockdown? You’re not alone