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Freedom day: we’re supposed to be ‘free’. So why are tensions higher than ever?

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Lauren Geall
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Has the lifting of restrictions on so-called ‘freedom day’ led to heightened tension among your friends, family and housemates? You’re not alone.

So-called ‘freedom day’ may have come and gone, but for many people, the lifting of restrictions hasn’t brought the sense of relief they hoped it would. Between rising case numbers, debates around mask-wearing and fears of being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, there’s a lot of tension in the air right now – and not just on social media.

For Rowan*, 32, the lifting of restrictions has made dealing with her family – who have refused to follow restrictions throughout the pandemic – even more tricky.

“I feel very stressed about this freedom day situation, personally,” she tells Stylist. “My partner’s parents are lovely, but they have refused to wear masks or social distance or download the app during this entire pandemic, and they don’t live far away so, now restrictions have lifted, they’re always dropping by for unexpected visits.

“I want to tell them that I feel uncomfortable, but 1) I don’t want to create a huge ruckus, and 2) now restrictions have lifted, I haven’t really got a leg to stand on like I did before.” 

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Ellie*, 23, is also finding it hard to vocalise her discomfort now that the rules have changed. Normally, she says, she’s quite comfortable speaking her mind – but living with her boyfriend’s family during the pandemic has made it harder to speak up. Now that restrictions have lifted, she’s finding it even trickier – even though she’d love to ask them to be more cautious as cases rise.

“My boyfriend’s younger brother recently went to a mass gathering, and that made me terrified that he was going to give something to us,” she says. “I tried to suggest that he take tests and distance himself for a bit, but it wasn’t really well received.”

She continues: “I just feel very stuck in a situation where I don’t really get a say in what people do – but it’s my health and job that will suffer if I get Covid-19.” 

A woman panicking
The lack of clarity over how to keep ourselves save is adding to the tension.

While the idea of taking personal responsibility would be fine if case numbers were low and catching the virus was rare, the fact that case numbers are high and rising is making the lack of clear guidance a lot more difficult to handle.

There’s also the fact that we’re feeling let down and disappointed after the anticlimax of restrictions lifting – something which, says Nevşah Karamehmet, a human behaviour and breathwork expert, teacher and author, could be adding to the sense of tension we’re all feeling right now.

“The idea of lockdown coming to an end has been kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel for many people,” she explains. “Imagine you have walked 50 miles to get to the end of the tunnel because you knew you would be able to get out, and when you reached the end – just when you were breathing in the fresh air – you see that there is another tunnel ahead that you have to walk through as well. That is exactly how people are feeling now.”

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With a lack of clarity over how to keep yourself safe – and with so-called ‘freedom day’ not shaping up to the ‘end’ of the pandemic you might have hoped for in the deep depths of lockdown – it’s only natural that you might be feeling a little more tense and frustrated than usual.

For now, then, the best thing you can do is continue to speak your mind, try to stay calm if you don’t see eye to eye with someone and be kind to yourself wherever possible.

As calm and serene as the weather outside may be, we’re in the middle of a pretty stressful and chaotic time. So, whether you need to switch off from the news for a day, take a minibreak to the countryside or just get outside for a breather, taking time to relax and unwind away from all the heated debates is important, too.  

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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.