As lockdown for some of us is easing, it does not come without risk. Survivors may feel that given the past trauma where trust has been betrayed, risk in itself can feel extra worrying and it may take us longer to be able to trust that the risks we are being encouraged to take are manageable.
How then can we move out of this phase of coronavirus without feeling too overwhelmed?
Mountaineer Peter Hillary, who has twice reached Everest, knows all too well what it feels like to return to “normal life” after an extended period of isolation. “It can be a shock,” he says. “While you’re away you get used to a certain kind of predictability and a new set of routines and then all of a sudden you’re back. And it can be quite confronting” He says that the key to readjustment is to “be understanding with yourself, accept that change is difficult and give yourself the time to readjust again.” (Source: “Life After Lockdown” The Guardian 31/5/2020)
Anxiety at this time is normal and to be expected. We had so much communication/demands from politicians and the media that we need to “Stay Safe” and that we could risk our own life and the lives of others by going outside. Leaving home and re-adjusting to the limited amount of social contact we are allowed can feel frightening dangerous even. We have been conditioned through excess media effectively now to train our brains to experience that going out is risky but now we have to re-train ourselves to tolerate a level of risk. We often have also developed new routines which has given us stability and helped us to feel safe – to relinquishing these structures is not easy and can take time to allow ourselves to feel safe.
Dialling Down The Drama:
How then can we move forward to re-enter our world without feeling overtaken by anxiety or fear? There is an anagram that could be helpful: ACE!
If we expect anxiety it can take the shock out of it and be better prepared. Take steps to stay safe and remind yourself that it is only natural to feel anxious at this time. Remember your brain is just warning you something MIGHT be risky – not that it definitely IS.
Create Choices For Yourself
Taking control of what you need to achieve yourself can help you to feel you have more power in the situation. So it could be a good idea to have an initial walk to school or work before the actual day arrives. This means you will be making choices rather than being forced into the situation and will give you confidence on the actual day. Ask yourself what could help to make this more achievable. I choose to get up today, I will choose what I want to eat , wear, listen to on the TV or radio etc…
Take it very slowly rather than a big leap at a time. Maybe a small meeting in the park with a friend for 15 minutes before a social barbeque with a group. Repeat until it feels a little easier. Each time you do it your anxiety will ease/reduce a little. Starting is always the hardest part.
(Source: Adapted from ideas “Have we replaced FOMO with FOGO?!” Kate Middleton www.mindandsoulfoundation.org)
Don’t Forget To Breath:
Your brain operates on two levels for making decisions – your rational, problem-solving brain – and a more instinctive, emotional quick decision level brain. You may have heard of the term ‘fight or flight’ system – this is when your emotional brain becomes much more powerful when triggered by feelings of overwhelm and excess stress levels. This trauma response in our brain aiming to protect, has two main effects, firstly it becomes hard to focus and think, the second impact is that decisions feel much more clouded and options can be more limited. This means in emotionally intense moments things can feel very bleak. The easiest way to drop your emotional level and bring back your ability to think more clearly is to manage your breathing. Try counting when you breathe, four in and six out, or simply focus on just your outbreath. If you can breathe into your diaphragm and ease tense chest breathing this can settle our bodies/nervous system and our minds to then become clearer. This in itself can help you lower your anxiety and allow a process for us to feel more in control.
Perhaps Lockdown for you has been a welcome retreat from a life that you were not enjoying and relationships that were not fulfilling or possibly unhealthy. Going back into the new world does not mean that you have to accept and continue to live the way you really don’t want to. Now could be the time to re-consider your boundaries and options that were enforced by the lock down. You can let people know that you have had a re-think about your priorities and relationships and you want to change some things. You will not be alone, whole communities could also be embracing changes.
New Ways Of Being:
Prof Vishaal Kishore, the director of RMIT’s Health Transformation Lab and a professor of innovation and public policy, says one of the ways to alleviate any uneasiness about the lifting of restrictions is to acknowledge that we, collectively, have some choice in the way our new routines and work lives might look that we may never have considered possible before. He says that “Before this pandemic, we’d often been labouring under the misconception that there was really only one way to organise work and society…… Recognising that – amongst all the change and uncertainty – we have choices and agency in how we remake our world of work and social life can help us to navigate that uncertainty with grace and optimism.”
Keeping Up Lock Down Lessons:
The Australian-born Nasa astronaut Andy Thomas says for those feeling uneasy about life after lockdown, it can be helpful to carry over some of the lessons you learnt about yourself during isolation. “When you’re in isolation, you get the opportunity for a lot of introspective thought. You get a chance to think about your life….What are the things you do that you like and what are the things you do that you don’t particularly like, but you do out of obligation?….As the lockdown eases there is an opportunity to say, ‘Well, those things weren’t working or they weren’t fulfilling … so I’m not going to do them anymore.” (Source Guardian 31/5/2020) As we come out of lockdown it could be an opportunity to think about rebuilding a life that is more fulfilling. Consider re-visiting some of the dreams or plans you thought about during this period. Perhaps sit down with a friend or counsellor and work out how these can be woven into your life now.
At Your Pace:
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is that confidence comes from doing the same thing repeatedly. Take new and fresh small steps first and if you need to return to a more “focused” world then do that.
‘To the brave and broken-hearted who have taught us how to rise after a fall: Your courage is contagious. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.’ Brene Brown.
“Life after lockdown: astronauts and adventurers on the ‘shock’ of getting back to normal” Rachel Wells The Guardian 31/5/2020
“Have we replaced FOMO with FOGO?!” Kate Middleton www.mindandsoulfoundation.org)