Are you feeling as anxious as I am? We’re slowly coming back to normal life: non-essential shops are reopening, there are more people on the streets and on Saturday the pubs started pouring pints again. Heck, if you can get an appointment, even the hairdressers are open! But how do you ease post lockdown anxiety?
We’ve all been safely cocooned in our homes for months now and maybe you used our Positive Planner Lockdown Toolbox to help you deal with it. But easing back into the real world is understandably giving us a very new type of anxiety. Worrying about how we and our loved ones will cope doesn’t make us crazy or control freaks because this fear is very real. I'm definitely feeling it and so wanted to share with you the best ways I've found to deal with post lockdown anxiety.
My 5 Tips to Ease Post Lockdown Anxiety
#1 Don't Force Positivity
This might sound bonkers, but being positive all the time is actually completely unnatural! It denies the ability to validate and recognise important thoughts, feelings and emotions, thereby undermining the experience of your true reality. Instead, try taking some quiet time to reflect on your negative thoughts and worries. What’s really at the root of your post lockdown anxiety? Knowledge is power and if you identify problems, you can plan solutions.
#2 Focus on what you can control
As human beings we crave certainty, but let's face it, there hasn’t been much of that in 2020! Our inherent dislike of uncertainty is so great that it can actually make us start future-tripping. It’s easy to slip into a cycle of creating our own negative narratives for the future that can trigger anxiety even before events take place. While catastrophizing over what you’ve got no control over may seem counterproductive, it's actually your brain's way of creating some sort of order and certainty.
The Circle Of Control is a tool I use when I notice this unhelpful thought cycle creeping in and I think it's a great way to ease post lockdown anxiety. It was created by Stephen Covey who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and helps you focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t.
Draw a circle and fill it with everything that's causing you anxiety that you CAN control or influence. Then around that draw another circle containing everything you’re anxious about that you CAN’T control. When you look at it, there’s still a LOT that’s in your control! By focusing on that, you’ll slowly start to expand your inner circle to the edge of the outer circle and reaffirm that there’s nothing you can do about the outer circle, so it’s not worth your energy.
#3 Start Journaling
A real life-saver for me when it comes to managing my feelings and anxieties is journaling. It gives us a space to voice things that we might never normally say out loud or even realise we’re thinking.
Because many of our anxieties can be embedded in our subconscious, rereading what you have written after a journaling session can be really informative - you’re literally reading your mind! Journaling helps you understand your experiences more clearly and in return offers a sense of relief.
If you’re unsure how to get started, we’ve written a blog post on Writing for Wellbeing that will help you take the first step.
Sounds so easy, right? But if you master it, breathing can be the simplest and quickest way to calm your nervous system.
When we’re anxious and stressed our breathing speeds up and can become irregular and erratic. This is when the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. It pumps stress hormones like cortisol into our bloodstream making our heart rate speed up and leaving our bodies a very uncomfortable and scary place to inhabit. What we want to do is move our bodies from a sympathetic state into the parasympathetic. This is when our breathing and heart rates slow, blood pressure lowers and a sense of calm is restored.
But how do you do it? Getting your body into this state is simply about adjusting the rhythm of your breath and you can do this by making the out breath longer than the in breath.
A simple tool I use is the 4/6 - breathe in for 4 and out for 6. It takes around 3 minutes for this rhythmic breathing to take effect, so I'd try doing it for around 5 minutes.
This can be a great thing to practice in times of heightened anxiety - on public transport or in a busy environment.
#5 Find your Magic 3
You don’t need to do everything and see everyone all at once! Make priorities and go at your own pace! Take time to readjust slowly.
It’s so easy to overburden ourselves at the best of times and it can often mean we set ourselves up to fail! I’ve found I love working in 3's. This is something both manageable and achievable - a win win win! Try starting and ending your day with a Magic 3 - at the beginning of the day list 3 things you’d like to achieve and at the end of the day list 3 things you’re grateful for! This will start to change your mindset towards something more positive and satisfying.
I really hope this helps you step into your new normal.
Good luck out there!
Much love, Finn xx