In the next few months the UK is due to slowly emerge from lockdown. We have just had the year anniversary of the first lockdown and we now nervously anticipate some normal activities restarting. People will be able to meet outside and if things go according to plan, gyms, shops, restaurants and pubs will gradually reopen.
Coming out of lockdown is going to be psychologically challenging for many people. Even those who can’t wait to restart normal life might be surprised by some feelings of anxiety as the new normal starts to change. At the neurological level our brains have adapted to avoiding others when in the park, shopping online, wearing masks and working from home. As human beings we tend to find shifting our habits somewhat stressful even if the direction of travel is positive.
So how can we pivot into the first glimmerings of a post lockdown world when we feel nervous and unsure of our footing?
Here are some practical tips that you may find helpful. They are taken from my Pivot Point coaching method.
Before you step into changing any habit, visualise what it will feel like to do something new. See yourself going into a shop, a pub, a restaurant that you haven’t been in for months. Imagine what you will see and hear. And throughout this process breath deeply so that you start to link a sense of peace and relaxation with your thoughts of doing something new. Many elite sports people visualise their race or golf swing in great detail before they ever get to the start line. This use of imagination is a rehearsal for mind and body for what is to come.
Coming out of lockdown is like being told for a year that you must never go near the colour red. You have reorientated your life around this principle. Now you are told it’s OK to go near red again. It takes some readjustment!
If you are resuming old habits, don’t try and do everything at once. If you are seeing people you have not seen for a long time you may find it easier to meet for short periods and then lengthen the time of meetings gradually. The same would apply if you are going somewhere new. Iv’e not been into my nearest city, London for a year. If I had to return to work there I would build up to it by taking a few trips on the train first. Simply because we are not used to it, it is possible that new forms of social contact will get tiring quickly. This may even be true for extroverts who usually gain energy from socialising.
We have been living in an atmosphere of bad news, trauma and fear for a long time now. This has become the soundtrack to our lives. For many, their mental health has been eroded. For many there has been a feeling of ‘just having to get on with it’. This ‘posture’ of coping may be familiar but I think just below the surface lie feelings of grief, pain and anger. As we come out of lockdown these feelings are likely to re-emerge. Society has been frozen. Thawing out could be painful. It is important, if possible, to have people who you can be vulnerable with and express some of these feelings with. I suspect there will be a lot of grief to work through and grief can make us feel disorientated and a bit out of control. So if possible it is good to line up a support network of at least one person who will agree to just listen if and when difficult feelings hit.
Audit the wins
Before coming out of lockdown it may be good to make a list of positive things, activities, new learning or experiences that you have gained during lockdown. You can also write what you look forward to doing in the future. The pandemic has put us in touch with our mortality and while this has felt like a brutal intrusion, it can also act as a pivot into making the best of whatever life we have. So your ‘bucket list’ should contain the things you need to do (or continue to do) that will bring you and others life. Sometimes this can be the simple things like calling and speaking with family more often. A list like this can also act as inspiration for gratitude. Gratitude can improve our mood and act as motivation for stepping one step at a time into a post lockdown world.