Here's how to handle your post-lockdown body anxiety

The UK is fast approaching 19th July, when many of the restrictions we have become used to living with during the Covid 19 pandemic will be lifted. Many of us will be going back to the office for the first time, or starting to go out more socially.

And while it's natural to feel somewhat anxious about coming into contact with other people again, without social distancing restrictions, many Brits are feeling nervous for another reason - because they're worried about their looks.

After a year-and-a-half of elasticated waistbands, bra strikes and zero make up, many people have lost their confidence - whether or not they really have put on the notorious 'lockdown pounds'.

Many Brits are feeling anxious about getting back out there (Getty Images)
Many Brits are feeling anxious about getting back out there (Getty Images)

A body image report conducted by MPs on the Commons’ women and equalities committee found that 53 per cent of adults felt lockdown has damaged their view of their appearance, while research from the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan revealed that nearly half of Brits feel un-confident about how they look after months at home.

For Dr Audrey Tang, a chartered psychologist and author of books including The Leader's Guide to Resilience, there are many reasons why some of us might be lacking in body confidence right about now.

"We may have been less active which could have led to a slightly less toned physique than we are used to having," she told Yahoo. "And we may have become used to wearing lounge-wear which, while comfortable, heightens the strange feeling we get when we return to a more tailored fit.

"It may not be that anything has got tighter, but simply that we have to get used to the structure again."

In addition, a crisis in body confidence can be emblematic of more general nerves about interacting with people outside our household bubble again.

So, whether you've put on lockdown pounds or not, how can you start to feel happier and more confident as you head back out into the world?

Dr Tang suggests repeating some simple mantras to yourself, as often as possible, until you start to feel your mindset shift.

"Try repeating this," she told Yahoo. "Although my thighs are...I appreciate them because they..."

For example, you might tell yourself: "Although my thighs are generously proportioned, I appreciate them because they take me on my daily walk."

It's common to feel insecure right now, but there are ways to feel so much better (Getty Images)
It's common to feel insecure right now, but there are ways to feel so much better (Getty Images)

"You can do this for your whole body, by starting with your head and working down," said Dr Tang. "It is likely you will find that what you do not like is visual, but what you appreciate about it isn't. Alternatively, just try to focus on appreciating what you do like about your body, whether that is your eyes, your hair or your smile."

Portrait of happy family black African American father and son child boy brushing teeth in the bathroom. Morning routine with toothbrushes, father’s day concept
"I love your smile.." (Getty Creative)

Dr Tang also suggests getting dressed up - but for you, not for anyone else. After all, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.

"When we feel good we walk taller, and we feel better overall, so dig out those things you’ve “had on hold” (even if you're not going anywhere special) because at the very least we have come to appreciate the value of embracing what we have right now."

Before anything else, it's essential to look after ourselves - and to watch our social media consumption.

"Remember to eat well, sleep well and exercise," said Dr Tang. "Over-indulgence can result in feeling guilty and perhaps excess weight and that leads to a cycle of negativity that benefits no-one.

"Conversely, under-eating and a lack of sleep can result in an inability to focus or even more feelings of anxiety."

Hungry overeating girl binge eating indulging on sweets
Getting on top of overeating is better for your mental health (Getty Creative)

Read this: How the pandemic has changed our relationship to our bodies

"And stop looking at social media accounts that make you feel bad, now. It is a tough enough world and we’ve had a tough enough time to not make things worse for yourself by creating narratives of inadequacy in your head. Spend time and energy with the things, and people, who champion and energise you."

Social networking service concept. Influencer marketing.
Stop the cycle of 'compare and despair' online. (Getty Creative)

But if you follow all this advice and your body confidence is still through the floor, especially if it's stopping you from reconnecting with friends or wanting to go back to work, then it might be time to look for help.

"Of course you can seek professional interventions," said Dr Tang. "Just make sure your therapists are accredited and members of regulated bodies such as the BACP (The British Association for Councelling and Psychotherapy). Your GP can also refer you to therapists, and in most areas you can refer yourself via IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies)."

Watch this: Study finds almost half of UK men are 'unhappy with body image'