After spending the better part of the past year in lockdown, it’s safe to say our habits have changed drastically.
Some people saw the first lockdown as an opportunity to find better work-life balance. Working from home meant a longer lie in, a bigger window for your at-home workout and ample time to cook homemade meals.
These habits have continued over the past 12 months and, as we begin to ease out of lockdown according to the government’s four-step plan, some of us are dreading life returning to normal.
“I am terrified,” Hayley Smith, owner of Boxed Out PR tells Yahoo UK. “I was not living a sustainable life before lockdown. I was constantly running around town for meetings, events and drinks and I was always exhausted.
“I have been working from home since March last year, and have been working on building my business. I have found a good routine, I'm healthier, I'm less stressed and have learned how to live a slower life.”
Smith adds that she’s anxious about everything opening up and doesn’t want to “rejoin the rat race”.
“I’m already feeling the pressure to be out and about and it's making me feel really anxious,” she continues.
“I still want to socialise, and I'm sure I will be able to adapt, but for now I'm happy in my little lockdown bubble.”
Sallee Poinsette-Nash, founder of Brandable & Co, is a self-described introvert and says her preferences “rarely include crowds of people”.
“For the past 12 months I've spent around 90% of my time indoors (most of it working), the rest of the time in nature with my dog and very few people around," she explains.
"I haven't had to take in new environments, noise has been minimal and social interaction has been on my own terms.
“As of Monday 12 April, the majority of people are out and about again, the volume went up and this presents a high risk of sensory overstimulation for those of us who are wired this way.
"For me, overstimulation results in feeling drained, needing to recharge and social anxiety, none of which are conducive to running a fast-paced, growing business.”
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Feelings of anxiety have rippled across the nation since the pandemic began. An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report from 2020 said there was a “marked increase” in anxiety levels at the beginning of lockdown with 49.6% of people reporting high anxiety.
“It’s unavoidable that over the past year anxiety has risen because of the fear of COVID-19 and constant news reporting,” says Floss Knight, psychotherapist and founding director of UK Therapy Guide.
“This is amplified by the lack of social interaction and relational contact.
"A year is a long time and this past year has felt especially long. However, you have brain and muscle memory to help you on your way as the world opens up again.”
So how can you ease your worries about things beginning to open up? Knight says it’s normal to be anxious and her advice is to take it slow and easy.
“Meet small groups of good friends first, share your feelings and remember many people feel the same way," she explains.
"You are not alone. If it feels too difficult, then please just reach out to a trained and accredited therapist to walk through it with you."
While the world opening up again is inevitable, Poinsette-Nash says there are some practices she will take from lockdown and apply as things start to change once more.
“Regular nature breaks are here to stay, as is delivering online talks in slippers! I value kindness highly and lockdown has shown me that it's always possible to do a little bit more,” she says.
“One thing that I hope will become our new 'normal' is continuing to support each other, checking in on those who might be struggling and making time for invaluable random acts of kindness.”
If you’re feeling anxious about lockdown easing or anything else, you can visit Anxiety UK.
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