By Rose Goodman
Medical advisor of Click Pharmacy, Jana Abelovska offers her advice on how to ease post-lockdown anxiety and reduce feelings of social panic as we move into the new normal.
Whilst the gradual easing of lockdown has many of us feeling hopeful and excited about seeing friends and family again, getting back to the office and even going to the pub (garden), some of us might also be experiencing feelings of anxiety about socialising IRL again after nearly three months in lockdown.
So how can we cope with these feelings and start getting some normality back into our lives? Here, Jana explains (clickpharmacy.co.uk) how to ease post-lockdown anxiety.
How to ease post-lockdown anxiety
1. Ease back into it
"The change from having a highly social work and personal life to nothing at all can be really detrimental to a person’s mental health and may cause many people who are normally extrovert to feel like they are becoming introverted, and not wanting to mix with others or participate in group video calls," says Jana.
"Developing social anxiety and a fear of mixing in a crowd is quite common, especially in a time when we are not getting out and about as we normally would," says Jana.
"You may find you are becoming frustrated with yourself because you are not use to experiencing feelings of fear over seeing friends, especially if you are normally quite extroverted, but this is normal, and you need to give yourself time to adapt back to social activities."
If the thought of mixing again scares you, remember it's fine to take it slow.
2. Try speaking to one new person a day
Such as speaking to a different person per day, this could be a friend, a family member or a colleague.
"Participating in a daily phone call will allow you to engage in a conversation as if we do not participate in conversation often, we lose our social skills," says Jana.
3. Make small steps
"If you haven’t been participating in zoom calls you may want to stick to a phone call at first as video chats may make you feel even more nervous and on edge," says Jana.
"After you have had a week of calling a friend a day, why not go further and organise a group call with a few friends to get use to group interaction."
4. Have a socially-distanced meet up
"If you feel ready, why not get a date in the diary for a socially distanced walk with a friend," suggests Jana.
"Seeing them face to face at first may feel strange and scary but you will feel better for getting the first meet over and done with and this should ease you into more social interactions."
5. Head into the office early
"If you have been told that you may have to head back into the office soon, I would suggest missing the mad rush of the early commute and getting into the office half an hour or an hour early," says Jana.
"This will allow you to be the first one in, so you can ease back into the working environment and greet co-workers as they arrive into the office."
This will be much better for your anxiety than walking into a packed office at 9am when everyone has most likely already said their hellos and settled in.
6. Speak to friends and family
If you are suffering with feelings of panic and fear over social plans, pick up the phone and speak to your close friends and family about how you are feeling.
"You may feel slightly embarrassed about these feelings, especially if you are usually the life and soul of the party, but there’s no shame in feeling slightly overwhelmed by the changes especially after so much time spent alone," says Jana.
"Try to explain your feelings to your friends, I can guarantee that at least one of them will be going through the same thing and will be glad and relieved that you have spoken about it!"
7. Try relaxation techniques
If you are due to meet a friend and feeling sick with anxiety, there are a few breathing exercises you can try before-hand to help relax you.
"Sit down and focus on your breathing only, take some deep and long breaths, counting to 10 each time. You can do this for however long feels good, this should allow your mind to relax and focus on the breathing alone," says Jana.
"It will hopefully allow you to calm down and manage your anxiety, so you feel ok to meet your friend."
8. Seek professional help
"If these feelings of anxiety and panic are starting to become all consuming, and you are actively avoiding video calls or calls from friends for fear of them wanting to meet up then you may want to seek professional help," says Jana.
"You can speak to your GP who may recommend cognitive therapy or joining relevant support groups."
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