Taking care of your mental health as we leave lockdown and return to ‘normal’

Moving towards a more normal life is so close, we can almost reach out and hug it – if we were allowed to get that close!

Over the past 18 months, our lives have been dramatically different to usual. But despite the hardships you might’ve faced since the pandemic broke out, the thought of moving back to your old way of living might feel overwhelming.

It’s OK not to feel ready to rush back out into life as we knew it before COVID-19.

If you’re feeling that way, I’ve put together some suggestions below about how to manage the return to normal in a healthy, supportive way. Let me know how they work for you.

Press pause

Stress and leaving lockdown
Pause and reflect – this gives us the power to choose our response!

Before you do anything else, take a moment to pause and reflect on the changes you’ve made during this time and whether some of them are worth keeping.

Before you rush back to the old way of doing things, ask yourself: What changes am I happy to let go of? What if I embraced more of those new things that I started doing in lockdown, even as we get back to normal?

I love this quote from Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, which really sums up the power of the pause: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’

You can choose how to respond as normality returns. You don’t just have to react in the same old ways – you can pause, reflect and choose a different response that serves you better. This is freedom –

Pick the right people to meet up with again

Seeing people after lockdown
Choose who you want to reconnect with & who you don’t…

One of the ways you might want to respond differently, is by spending more or less time with different people. As restrictions lift and we’re allowed to meet up with people again, think about who you really want to see. Be your own best friend & choose your ‘new besties’ with care. Who gives you energy, support and leaves you with a ‘feel-good factor’ afterwards?

Lockdown may have provided the opportunity recognise who has a positive impact on you, who brings out the best in you and who makes you feel good after spending time with them. And also, who doesn’t.

Put yourself first and make the right choice for your own well-being. That might mean not meeting up with certain people or in big groups or with anyone at all right away. Choose the path that’s right for you.

Find new regular routines

Stress and the new normal
Good routines = positive mindset = great days

The loss of routine was a big issue when we went into lockdown and it’s just as important as we begin to move out of it and back towards another normal.

Good routines – whether it’s a walk before work, spending time outside at dinnertime, making a home cooked meal in the evening, reading a book before bed – have a positive impact on our mindset. Pause, reflect, choose!

I’d encourage you to pause and reflect on this idea and really think about which routines you want to continue to nourish and grow as we start moving out of lockdown.  Don’t feel you have to fall back into the old habits of the previous routine, put yourself first and be your own best friend.

Don’t throw away some of the positives you’ve had from lockdown. If you’ve enjoyed spending more time with your family, plan how to do more of that and make it happen.

Go at your own pace

Stress and moving out of lockdown
‘You were born an original, don’t die a copy.’ John Mason

You don’t need to hit the gym, return to the office and go out for a drink all within the first few weeks of restrictions easing. Unless you want to, of course!

If you’re anxious about returning to normal, choose to space things out. That way, when you’re ready to do them, you’ll probably find that you enjoy them much more.

Take your time and feel it out. Check back in with yourself after a few weeks or months and ask yourself: Do I want to do more of that activity or less? Think about whether you’re actually happier staying in and reading a book in bed rather than going out to the pub.

Another favourite quote of mine, this time from John Mason, is: ‘You’re born an original, don’t die a copy.’ So stay wonky – it is OK to be you!

Just because you can do things like go to the pub again, it doesn’t mean you have to. It’s OK to go at a pace that’s slower than others.

Talk about how you’re feeling

Stress and the new normal
Talk about how you’re feeling about returning to normal

If you are feeling wonky, or stressed or anxious about this new period as we move back to normal – talk about it and normalise the conversation about this topic and mental health.

If friends or family ask you to meet up and you’re uncomfortable with this, tell them. If you’re heading back into the workplace, talk to your colleagues about whether you’d prefer to keep doing your regular check-ins via video for now.

One great piece of advice that I find really helpful is to add ‘and that’s ok’ when you do talk about your feelings. For example, ‘I feel anxious and that’s ok’, ‘I feel nervous about hugging people again and that’s ok.’

It’s useful in many ways. If you use it when you talk to yourself it can help you to accept the way you feel, rather than fighting against it, which can stop negative emotions spiralling out of control.

It also works for when you’re talking to someone else i.e., if someone tells you ‘I feel nervous’, and you respond ‘and that’s ok’, it’s a great way of being non-judgmental & supporting.

Finally, if you’re worried about how someone might respond to you expressing your feelings, adding ‘and that’s ok’ at the end, might make them feel less apprehensive about how to respond.

If you’d like more helpful hints about how to stay mentally well delivered straight to your inbox, contact me to sign up to my e-newsletter.

Go well into your adventure into the new, big, wide, opening-up ‘normal’ out there…