With the UK government removing the last of the Covid-19 restrictions, I thought that it may be time to update the original “The New Normal” post. This is being written for everyone, not just the UK, so if you feel the advice is useful to you, please do use it.
You may be feeling anxious, or scared, or a whole myriad of emotions right now. You're allowed to. The world has been in and out of some kind of lockdown for nearly 18 months now and many people have become comfortable with our new way of life. Some of us may never want to leave this protective bubble that we've placed ourselves into.
The requirement to wear a mask will be removed although the Prime Minister is advising their use in crowded places. People will be idiots about this. But it's your choice whether to wear a mask or not. Personally I'm going to continue wearing them as I've found that the rate I get a common cold has plummeted. Plus I feel healthier and know that I'm helping to stop the spread of any illness that I do have. If people challenge on you on wearing a mask (or not) all you need to say is that it's your choice. You don't have to say any more. Strangers, or even close friends, don't need any kind of explanation as to why you're choosing to do something.
Don't let your friends or family dictate to what you do or don't do. People will want to get together and celebrate but we're still in a pandemic. Social distancing and face masks may be gone but Covid numbers are rising, especially here in the UK. And with new variants breaking through all the time, you may still want to take precautions. Let people know that you don't yet feel comfortable doing something and that it's your choice on what you do and don't do. Because it's your body. You may have underlying issues that you don't want others to know about or, as mentioned above, you may not feel comfortable being out and about. You're still well within your rights to say that there is still a pandemic happening and that you'll join them on another day. Be polite but be firm. Don't allow them to try and sway you. “No” is a complete sentence.
Social distancing will also be leaving us even if it has felt that it hasn't been with us for a long time. It's up to you how you handle this. You may be ready to get out into crowded spaces. If not, you are still welcome to try and keep your distance. It may be tough at time but it can be done. Quieter times at supermarkets and off-peak travel (if you can). If you're having to travel on public transport at peak times, it'll be masks and hand gel all the way!
But how to deal with that anxiety that you, or someone you know, may be dealing with? Reopening anxiety is a new phenomenon for all of us. We've never had to deal with it before. We're being reborn into a brave new world and none of us know what is going to happen in the coming days and weeks.
Just prior to Covid-19, I'd booked a few days in Berlin. I'd been looking forward to it for 18 months and was chomping at the bit to be back in one of my favourite cities. Unfortunately, the pandemic put paid to that and I have no clue when I'll (finally) get over there. I don't know if I can face going on a plane yet. Or being in an airport. Or using public transport either here, or in Germany. That anxiety swells in my stomach every time the thought of travel crosses my mind. For now, I'll be remaining in the UK and working on getting myself back into the world that we knew back in January 2020.
There's been a number of ways to deal with the anxiety. They may not kill the feelings all together but they may help to quieten the sensations.
Go somewhere quiet and breathe. Breathe deeply before slowly exhaling. Close your eyes as you're breathing and imagine yourself somewhere else. Maybe on the beach. Maybe at home. Maybe in the forest. Somewhere that represents peace and tranquillity to you.
Write down what is making you anxious. Use short bullet points to begin before breaking out into longer paragraphs if you feel the need to. You may want to start a journal to see if there are reoccurring patterns. You can then address those patterns in any way you see fit. For issues you can't address, a therapist or someone outside of your circle may be able to help.
Walk. Seriously, just walk. Toss your phone in a drawer and just get out and walk. Or walk laps around your house or garden. Walking, and movement in general, is great at clearing our heads.
ASMR and soundscapes. These are best listened to through headphones. You Tube has millions of hours of these and even the most niche subject is catered to. Looking for “Rain on a porch”? It'll be there. The same goes for any other soothing sounds that will help to clear your mind and help that anxious energy to melt away.
Look after yourself. That's all you can do right now. You're the one who knows yourself the best so do as much, or as little, as you feel comfortable with.
Rachael is the author of several books, including You Are Not Broken: Tips and Tricks for Looking After Your Mental Health. You can see all of her work at www.roswellpublishing.co.uk