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When Boris Johnson announced the government’s roadmap detailing the four stages of easing lockdown, it seemed we breathed a collective sigh of relief.
After various lockdowns over the past year, it finally looks as if there could be a light at the end of this very long tunnel.
Yet, while we’ve all marked 21 June on our calendars as the date things are set to return to normal (subject to review, of course), for some this deep dive back into normality could be anxiety-inducing after spending a year social distancing due to fear of catching the coronavirus.
“I think there will always be an elephant in the room because of COVID. ‘Are you going to give it to me, am I asymptomatic? What about vaccines, and the percentage of cover?’ There are many many questions surrounding opening up which may or may not have answers which in turn causes more anxiety,” says Beverley Hills, clinical supervisor and Counselling Directory member.
For those who are worried, Hills says it’s best to be transparent with others about your feelings.
“Giving excuses only raises more potential questions which can make you feel awkward. Admitting that you’re not quite ready gives the other person permission to voice their own feelings,” she explains.
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If you do want to see others, Hills says the best way to overcome this anxiety is to be responsible for your own safety.
This could mean setting boundaries with your friends and family, and only agreeing to a social interaction that you feel comfortable with, even if the current level of restrictions allows for more - whether it’s an outside distanced dinner in the garden, not hugging when you see one another or wearing a face mask if you visit another household, do whatever makes you feel comfortable.
If you don’t feel ready to be around people yet, that’s okay too. The way we socialise has changed and people are going to continue to socialise virtually (be it video calls or phone calls) long after we’re given the green light for things to reopen.
Another cause of anxiety could be having to use public transport once things start to open up.
“We know that PPE and social distancing works so if you have to use public transport once again take responsibility for your own personal safety,” Hills adds.
“Perhaps you might want to consider doing a few dummy runs of your journey to see what conditions are like at certain times of day, or maybe talk to your manager to see if you can come in late and leave early – or think about walking part of the way.”
When 21 June does roll around - or whatever date restrictions are dropped completely - know that it’s okay if it takes some time for you to adjust to things being “normal” again.
“I think this is about managing expectations and coming to an understanding that the old ways of living might have to change,” Hills continues.
“As the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously said ‘Plus c’est change, plus c’est la meme chose’ - the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are a remarkably adaptable species and we’ll soon learn to incorporate a different way of living into our daily lives until we never knew how we ever lived otherwise.”