The end is in sight... after more than 12 months of the world going in and out of some kind of lockdown, it would seem that the end of lockdowns, closures, distancing and isolation is now something we can all start to look forward to. But is it that simple? Can we all simply drop back into our lives and pick up from where we left off?
Regardless of the social distancing measures which may remain in place, the UK and other countries are now looking at roadmaps of ways we can start to return to as normal a life as possible. For many this is fantastic news meaning we can start to see friends and loved ones again. At the same time, this 'return to normality' also brings with it anxiety. Even for those who would class themselves as having good mental health, the prospect of going back to busy work schedules, children's activities, social gatherings etc. is actually bringing up anxieties about how we will cope with these situations which, in pre-lockdown times, were just 'normal life'.
So what is going on here? Surely everyone can't wait to get back to normal life?
Not so. For the past year many of us have had to cope with huge change to our daily activities and routines and this itself was difficult to adapt to. After such a long time of having to live this way, the prospect for some of having to go back out in the big wide world is just as daunting. In adjusting to a new set of rules (many of which have been imposed upon us rather than a conscious decision we made ourselves) these new rules about how we must behave have become ingrained in our lives. "Don't get too close to other people, wash your hands as much as possible, wear a mask wherever you go, don't hug people..." etc etc.
And these rules have had a hard hitting life-saving message attached to them... Save lives.
With the end of some of these rules soon to come into play, we are once again having to adjust our mindset to the prospect of being able to socialise again, to share our space and air with others, albeit limited at first. Having changed our minds to one approach, we are soon going to to have to start to change this again. As adults, we have the intellect and rationality to decide what we are comfortable with (within the boundaries of the current restrictions) and make our own minds up about what we do and when. But for those who HAVE to return to the workplace after having worked from home for perhaps a year, I know some people who are simply not comfortable with this and are getting seriously anxious. Similarly, for some of my Mum friends, even the prospect of mixing with others for family gatherings, social engagements again is bringing an unexpected level of anxiety. the thing we yearned for is now becoming something we fear?!
Now consider children and young people in the equation. Kids are like sponges and are quick to adapt and change to their environments. They do however like to have consistent rules and guidelines or they quickly become confused. Confusion leads to anxiety and excess anxiety can lead to depression, even in young children. We are told as parents to keep household rules consistent to avoid badly behaved children. The past year has put our young generation through more change than we can imagine - in and out of school, being able to see friends and then isolated away. This is bound to lead to behaviour changes and I have seen first hand the effects this can have on kids.
In the months (and perhaps even years) ahead, we must all pay careful attention to our own levels of anxiety and make sure we be kind to ourselves in terms of what we expect from ourselves (and others, particularly our children). Some people will inevitably have expectations forced upon them of what they need to do, however no one should underestimate the impact on our mental health and we need to realise that we can all be affected in different ways by the changes which we will see as the restrictions begin to be lifted. Above all, be gentle with yourselves!
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