When the bubble pops

Let’s be mindful that some people may be experiencing anxiety and fear when transitioning out of lockdown.

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WHO’S READY TO COME OUT OF LOCKDOWN?! Not everyone? Well, that’s OK too.

As the population heads back to work and school, we are beginning the transition back to life as normal. Normal? It sure doesn’t feel like it. After a seven-week isolation period, we can’t expect to be unchanged by these unusual circumstances, whether for better or worse.

transitioning out of lockdown

Transitioning from the “stay at home” to the “go on, get out there, just be careful” phase of lockdown is exciting for many, yet stressful for some. Just as everyone had a different experience in lockdown — cramped or lonely, relaxed or sleepless, slumped or productive — the return to “normalcy” will be equally varied.

If you’re returning to the big bad world with vigour and enthusiasm, that’s great! But there are also people who will struggle to adapt, carrying the weight of uncertainty, financial and business worries, social anxiety, and fear.

Whether you’re the former or latter, both or neither (hey, that’s everyone!), we can all consider how to move through this stage with compassion for ourselves and others.

What’s behind your anxiety and fear?

anxiety and fear
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” – Yoda

Listen to the powerful Jedi master. Through contemplation, meditation, discussion or a creative activity, try to pinpoint your over-riding emotions.

What do you feel? Fear, anxiety, uncertainty, anger, agitation, resentment?

Limiting emotions may be trying to tell you something important. They are natural instincts that have your own safety and wellbeing in mind. Instead of trying to push them away, identify those emotions and really get to the heart of what they are trying to tell you. After all, we are living through a global pandemic, so they may not be unfounded.

First, consider if they are reasonable and in proportion to your circumstances.

Then, decide on what action you will take next. For example, if your fears are out of proportion, is it time to minimise your exposure to news and media?

Conquering Fear = Defining Fear

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

Seneca

Keep yourself safe

If you’re worried that other people aren’t being careful, with their behaviour or hygiene practices, do what you can to keep yourself protected. Don’t be afraid to put your health first.

New Zealand’s Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says:

The move to level 2 also comes with big responsibilities for Kiwis to take control into their own clean hands. The golden rules of level 2 are:

  • Anyone with so much as a sniffle has to stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise. This should be a really low bar.
  • Wash your hands. Do it properly.
  • Keeping your distance from strangers in public, especially on public transport.
  • Don’t socialise with more than 10 people at once.
  • Keep track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen.

Click here to view more information on the government’s COVID-19 website.

Set your boundaries

This applies both to physical distancing and other people’s expectations of you. Speak up if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, and remove yourself from an unsafe situation if you can.

If someone is making demands on your time and energy, explain that you have limited capacity right now. I won’t presume that’s easy to do, or possible in every situation. If an explanation is needed, have responses prepared so you don’t find yourself floundering in the moment. Don’t feel that you need to share details about your personal life. This is about setting boundaries for what people can expect from you at this time.

Manage overwhelm

Notice how you respond to transitioning out of lockdown. Is it too much, too soon? Acknowledge when you are feeling stretched or over-committed, whether at work, school, home, or socially. Delegate tasks if possible. Schedule your time. Rest up and practice self-care. It’s hard to operate with an overactive nervous system — for the long term, anyway.

It’s OK to say no to an invitation or opportunity. Decline with grace and respect. There will be more opportunities in the future when you are in a better position to take it on.

“They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Rising Strong, Brené Brown

Honour your own journey

Try not to compare yourself with others. Many of us are guilty of sharing photos of banana bread, decluttered wardrobes, Zoom chats, 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, homeschooling, camping trips in the backyard, home haircuts, and fitness workouts.

If your single biggest achievement was binging an entire Netflix show, changing out of your pyjamas, or sending a thoughtful message to someone, good for you. Everyone rode this wave differently and it does nobody any good to compare their journey with anyone else’s. So quit it!

Be kind to others

This point could be in every blog post. There is no better remedy for anxiety and fear than self-compassion and empathy for others.

Share what you’re feeling with people in your life that you trust. Chances are you’re not alone, others feel it too! The more we can all open up and share our experiences around limiting emotions, the more we can support each other.

Offer help to those who need it, if you have the capacity to do so. Lend an ear to someone who is feeling anxious at this time.

Be mindful of people you encounter who seem to be agitated or dealing with anxiety. We don’t know what others are going through right now. While we’re transitioning out of lockdown, presume that everyone is doing their best, and act with kindness first. And keep doing that.

Let’s finish off with this wonderful video accompanying David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech: This is Water.