21 June: how to deal with the pressure to “celebrate” the end of lockdown

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Hollie Richardson
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Woman counting down time

Are you feeling under pressure to celebrate 21 June 2021 in a big way? One writer describes the anxiety she’s feeling over it all.

Monday 21 June. That date has lodged itself in my mind since Boris Johnson announced his lockdown-easing roadmap. According to Johnson, if everything goes to plan, this is the day when all legal social distancing restrictions will end. That would mean the reopening of nightclubs and the return of large events with full crowds – which have both seemed completely unimaginable over the last year. 

Following months of feeling bored and blue, the very thought of this sends me dizzy with excitement. While I don’t for one second think that I’ll be swinging off the chandelier in a sweaty underground Soho haunt by the end of this year, the tentative deadline does give me permission to believe the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a cruel mirage. Yes, I know the 21 June “deadline” will likely change, but the end of lockdown is now a reality. 

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I completely understand why some people are anxious about stepping out into this post-lockdown world (when push comes to shove, this perhaps will hit me too). But I’ve been using “positive imagery” – picturing myself drinking cocktails with friends on a rooftop bar – to recapture some excitement in my life. I am so ready to snog a stranger or three and pay £15 for someone else to serve me an ice-cold cocktail. 

However, as the buzz around so-called “independence day” continues to get louder, a certain type of anxiety has started to creep in: FOMO

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Within a week of the roadmap news, there has already been so much pressure to make 21 June the “biggest, most fun, unforgettable bonanza EVER”. Our collective giddiness is being illustrated with viral memes on Twitter. My WhatsApp is rife with worrying messages about “losing lockdown weight” and frantic voice notes about booking hair, nail, eyebrow and tan appointments. I’m all for thinking about future plans over the coming months, but this is all too overwhelming.

I feel like I should have already bought a sparkly new outfit, organised an uncontrollable party in an east London warehouse, and booked a cheap flight to Greece for the following morning to shake off the week-long hangover on a beach. In fact, I should probably book the whole month off work, right? 

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21 June: it's important not to feel pressured into making big plans.

Of course, I am well aware it would be very stupid to do any of that – it is a tentative date, after all, and we know how much the government likes to overpromise on things before taking U-turns. But I do feel this weird expectation to make AMAZING plans with our impending new freedom. And thanks to the comparison culture that we live in, those old pre-pandemic FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings are entering my head again.

Has everyone else already made wild plans for 21 June? Should I seriously book the day off work? Maybe I should make sure I have something fun to do on each day of June? How do I make sure this is the best summer it can be?

It’s all left me feeling a bit anxious about not “doing it right” when it comes to making plans for the end of lockdown. 

When I talked to my friend Kathryn about this, she admitted that she is also “wrestling” with a similar anxiety over pressure to make big post-lockdown plans: “The last few weeks of lockdown have been the hardest for me. But I was sent into a tailspin of emotions after the announcement. At first I felt incredibly giddy and excited, then I started to feel overwhelmed with FOMO and anxiety. 

“I feel like all my FOMO demons have been locked away in a cupboard for 11 months and suddenly they’ve come out to taunt me and make me worry about booking Airbnbs and pub beer gardens. My WhatsApp group chats immediately started to fill up with messages about 40th birthday parties, trips to Ibiza and pub bookings, with people jostling about dates. 

“I feel huge anxiety to ‘do things’ now, which seems ridiculous as it’s still at least seven weeks until we can even do anything. I feel like my fear of going anywhere after 11 months of lockdown is wrestling with my fear of missing out.”

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Kathryn also shared the interesting method she’s using to handle the overwhelming situation, and it sounds so good that I’m going to try it myself: “I usually get a sort of ‘summer FOMO’ anyway, so a couple of years ago I tried to conquer this by writing a list of everything I wanted to experience that summer: silly stuff from eating an ice cream to seeing people I hadn’t seen in ages. It actually really helped!

“So this time I’ve started making a list of everything I’ve been missing and that I want to do once we can. I’ve realised that it isn’t the huge bacchanalian celebrations that I’d really missed. It’s more about little things like getting the Tube after work to meet a mate in the pub. Or going to the cinema on a Friday night and buying some overpriced popcorn. And getting the train somewhere to explore a new town or city.

“I will definitely go to an exciting party if somebody invites me, but I also just really want to see a ballet, go to a concert or have lunch with more than one friend. Hopefully this list will help me not feel like I’m missing out when I see people on Instagram with photos of their luxury Greek holidays or wild parties.”

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Kathryn’s words have massively calmed me down. Yes, it would be great to be invited to fabulous parties around the city. And sure, I’m looking forward to meeting strangers on impromptu nights out again, as we emerge from lockdown and recover from a collective trauma, it’s actually the little things that really need celebrating on 21 June. 

Cooking dinner for a pal and greeting them at my door with a hug. Catching the train to the beach for the day with just a book and a bottle of sunscreen in my bag. Trying on 50 outfits in Westfield’s Zara only to give up and get a McDonalds. 

Ah yes, they are the real big events that 21 June will bring. And there will be plenty more opportunities to swing from chandeliers in the future. 

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