Returning to Normal – why does it feel so… strange?

So, lockdown is being lifted gradually for some of us. This is the scenario we have been craving for months, isn’t it? Haven’t we been fantasizing about seeing friends and family, visiting our favourite restaurant, having a drink in the pub and getting back to ‘normality’?

Now it’s becoming a reality, why do we feel so strange about it? We should be collectively bouncing off the walls. But we aren’t. It feels off, different and – if we are being honest – downright scary.  

We are here to tell you that all of these emotions are allowed, and let’s try to understand why you may be feeling this way. 

Why do I feel strange about the changes? 

Humans are incredibly complex beings. We hate change, or we are at least change averse. This is a safety mechanism installed in our homosapien brains to keep us safe, so it’s in our nature. Think about how you felt when we first heard that lockdown was imminent. It might have felt awful, anxiety-inducing and the fear of the unknown was crippling for some. 

But then, what happened? We adapted. That’s the other built in feature of your brain. You can adapt to pretty much any change thrown your way. How awesome are you? 

So, of course yet another change to this already stressful time – even if it is being badged as a positive one – is going to feel uncomfortable. But look at how you survived in the past. You adapted, and it might have become bearable. Heck, it might have even been enjoyable at times. 

What we are saying is; change is hard and it’s completely valid and normal to feel this way. But you will adapt, and you will get through this – one day at a time. Just like you have always done when faced with a change, because you are amazing. 

OK, but why am I still not thrilled about lockdown easing? 

Yes, lockdown is easing slightly. But it’s still not exactly ‘normal’ yet, is it? We still can’t hug our loved ones in other households, or shake hands when having a work meeting. We can see our friends, but not too close. We can go to a restaurant, but not in the same way as before. 

Is there any wonder you’re not ecstatic?

We aren’t trying to remind you of reasons to feel miserable about the current situation, we just want to highlight that your ‘meh’ feelings about the easing of lockdown are completely reasonable. How you thought you’d feel when lockdown finished vs. how you actually feel now may be completely different – and that’s OK.

I am actually feeling really panicked about the easing of restrictions… 

We hear you – and you are certainly not alone. 

First of all, take a deep breath with us. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Hold it for five seconds. Now breathe out like you are blowing candles on your birthday cake. Repeat this exercise as many times a day as you need to. It will send relaxing chemicals to your brain. 

It’s not nice to feel panicky. It’s awful, in fact. But in order to get through it, we must allow this emotion some space. Trying to bury it or hide it will just make it cry out for attention more. 

So here are a few exercises for you to try: 

Write it down. Give your emotion the mic and see what they have to say. Start the sentence ‘Dear Anxiety, you seem to be kicking up a bit of a fuss lately. What are you trying to tell me?’ Now allow your anxiety to write. It might be some completely catastrophic situations, or it might simply tell you that things are moving too fast and it needs a bit of a breather. 

Whatever comes out, we now want YOU to reassure your anxiety. Write down your response, much like the agony aunt newspaper features. Tell them it’s normal to feel this way, and here are some things that might help. Remind your anxiety that their worst-case-scenario situations are very unlikely, or tell them that you’ll prioritise a self-care day at home this weekend instead of going out to peruse the newly opened shops. 

This may seem like a strange exercise, but it might really help to process and deal with this feeling of panic. 

Focus on NOW. Panic very rarely comes from being focused on the present – it usually stems from your thoughts being stuck on the past or in the future. Take a deep breath and use all five of your senses to bring yourself to the present. Name five things you can see right now, what can you smell, have a drink, listen to your surroundings and name the sounds, tap yourself gently on the arm or face. 

You are right here. And in this moment, there is nothing to panic about. You are safe, you are alive, you are enough. Bring yourself back into the present any time you find yourself being dragged into a panic, and remember that right now –  all is well.

There are many other reasons you are feeling panicked. Health conditions, home life, bereavement, job redundancies – don’t feel like you have to face these situations alone. Text HECTOR to 85258 or call Samaritans on 116 123. We are always, always here for you – no matter what your situation may be. 

It just feels like it’s never going to end… 

2020, huh? What a year. We have collectively been through so much in such a short space of time, and it can feel completely overwhelming. There is no shame in this. But we are here to tell you…it will end. 

Everything is temporary. This situation is temporary. Your feelings – the good, the bad and the ugly – are temporary. Taking one day at a time will make this feel much smaller, and know that you’re not alone. 

How do I look after myself better during all this? 

First of all, you are here. What a great first step in taking time to read this and getting help. We are so proud of you.  

Here are a few things to do: 

  • Set boundaries. Tell people what you need – be it your friends, family or at work. If you don’t want texts about the news, tell your friends. Don’t feel comfortable going to a family BBQ just yet? That’s totally OK and you are allowed to say no. Is your boss expecting you too much? Explain your needs to them. You are allowed to protect yourself during this time. 
  • Practice self care. We don’t necessarily mean grabbing a charcoal face mask and cucumber – but taking time to do something for YOU and nobody else is a great way to be kind to yourself. Take a look at some examples here
  • Get outside into nature. We understand outside might feel terrifying to you right now. But if you are able, getting into nature is hugely beneficial to our well-being.
  •  Reach out for help. If this is all feeling too much to handle by yourself, please don’t suffer in silence. Text HECTOR to 85258 to speak to a trained crisis volunteer. It’s free, confidential and open 24/7. 

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