woman_coffee_winter_relax_thumb.jpgWith the prospects of schools opening their doors very soon and retail stores preparing to welcome back shoppers, the lockdown cloud is slowly starting to shift again.

While many of us are eager to feel a sense of normality again and prepare for summer sun, the idea of a ‘new normal’ may trigger old or new anxieties and worries.

We’ve gathered some simple practices and tips to help you manage adjusting to life after lockdown.

Create calming habits

If you find yourself repeatedly doing things that make your anxiety worse, such as checking the news, try to break the cycle by doing something that makes you feel calm instead. This could be relaxing with a feel-good boxset, reading a book, exercising, listening to music – whatever gets your mind off things and helps you feel at peace.

Sensory anchors can be beneficial too, objects that encourage feelings of calm through your five senses. Lavender essential oil is a popular choice among those who experience anxiety. Try dabbing a few drops on your wrists or spraying your pillow with a sleep mist.

And breathe...

When we feel anxious, our bodies often trigger a physical stress response, which causes the heart to beat faster and the breath to become quicker and shallower. Deep breathing techniques are one of the most effective ways to counter the stress response and calm the body and mind.

When you experience feelings of anxiety, try the ‘double calm’ breathing exercise by exhaling (breathing out) for double the length of time that you inhale (breathe in).

Focus on the positives

While there’s still a lot of uncertainty, there are surprising a number of elements we can still control, such as how much media coverage we allow ourselves to watch, the amount we want to talk about it and our immediate environment we live in.

There's also the things you've missed that you could be able to do soon: booking yourself in for some self-care and TLC at the salon, seeing loved ones and friends in person (albeit socially distanced), the return of sport or just being able to enjoy certain aspects of your old routine.

Use this time as an opportunity for positive change. Taking control and focusing on the things we can influence can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

What you can control

It can help to think about and list the things in your life that you have control over, as well as those that you don’t. Usually, you’ll find that the list of things you can control is longer, which can be empowering in itself.

And, if there’s something you’ve enjoyed doing during the lockdown, try to make it a priority to continue doing it even as lockdown starts to lift. Making conscious decisions like this can help us to feel more autonomy over the things we can control.

Plan ahead

Things may not turn out as you had planned, so try and prepare yourself for this. Anticipate that you might feel disoriented or agitated.

If you’re worried about panic attacks, practice ten minutes of mindfulness a day. What can you see, hear, smell, touch and taste? When you feel an attack coming on, try and tap into this practice, feel your feet on the ground and know that you
are safe.

Talk about it

It’s completely normal for most people to have some degree of re-entry anxiety at this time. It is important to accept that seeking help is okay and adaptive.

Sharing your worries and concerns with another can also help you see a different perspective. You might even be able to help someone else by sharing your strategies and tips for coping.

Keep an ‘anchor’. When everything’s changing, it’s helpful to have something that can remain constant and anchor you to your usual life.

get_help_thumb.jpgGet help

If you are struggling to cope, are worried about someone you know or need to speak to someone urgently, there is a range of help available.

  • The COVID-19 mental health support service offers support to anyone who has been affected by the pandemic in any way. It's free and available 24 hours a day. Just call (01472) 256256 and select option 3.
  • If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the Single Point of Access on (01472) 256256 and select option 3. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Safespace provides instant support if you’re vulnerable and need assistance with your mental health out-of-hours. You can speak to the team using Zoom or by calling in via telephone, between 5.30pm and 11pm, Monday to Friday.‚Äč
  • Open Minds offers a range of talking therapies aimed at helping you to deal with the effects of stress, anxiety and depression. You can self-refer to Open Minds online.