In England, as lockdown starts to ease, the pressure to go back to pre-pandemic life can cause heightened anxieties. We are now so used to a slower pace of life, social distancing and wearing face masks has become our ‘new normal’. With little still known about what will happen once restrictions have been lifted, it’s understandable that so many of us are starting to experience ‘return anxiety‘.
A year ago -when the UK was in it’s first lockdown – I was forced to stop. Before the pandemic struck, I was in a cycle of being busy then burnt out, and had started to notice the loop getting increasingly smaller. Being forced to stop did me the world of good. We were all trapped in this lie where being busy meant that you were succeeding. The reality was that we were so busy, we weren’t giving ourselves time to process our achievements, or anything that was happening around us.
I began to worry less about doing things for the sake of doing them and started to let go of time constraints. As lockdown began to ease, I was thriving; enjoying being more sociable but also allowing time to rest. Then restrictions started to creep their way back in, the days started getting shorter and a second lockdown was on the horizon. As a way to cope, I turned to the strategy I had engrained into myself; keeping as busy as possible until I burn out. The last months of 2020 were then focused on re-learning how to look after my mental health.
It was in the current, third lockdown that I finally started to find some balance on the scales of being busy and doing nothing at all. I recognise when it’s not a good time to start something and when it’s good to stop. I will now happily stop reading a book, rather than finishing it, just to say that I read it. I know to take regular breaks and know that working overtime won’t make me more productive.
Don’t be afraid to say No
As my calendar begins to fill up again, I have to remind myself not to take on too much and leave time to rest and recharge. Pre pandemic life, I would say yes to everything and then cancel on friends at the last minute because I had burnt out from taking on too much.
Over the last year I have seen my productivity grow when I allow myself to stop. I am now not afraid to say no to plans or offer another date so that I can fit in time for myself. It’s important to remember that we are not used to being sociable and we will be more drained than before after social interactions.
The thought of suddenly being engulfed in a swarm of people after such a long time of being no where near crowds, instantly fills me with anxiety. I’ve therefore said no to any festivals this year. This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s one of the boundaries i’ve put in place so that I feel safe and comfortable as lockdown eases.
It’s OK to say that you don’t feel comfortable or you’re not ready to be in large groups just yet. If someone has a problem with my boundaries, then that’s really on them and not about me being “ridiculous” or “over-reacting“.
Keeping a Calendar
Last minute cancellations will still happen but by keeping a record of upcoming plans in a calendar – whether that be physical or on a device – you can see when you are starting to get booked up and may need to take a break. I’ve even started scheduling in rest days/evenings for myself. That way I can always just say I’m busy on that date – technically I am, busy resting.
What measures are you putting in place to look after your mental health as lockdown eases? Have you set any boundaries?