How To Integrate Back Into Society After Lockdown
For the last 10 weeks, we have been repeatedly told to stay home as much as possible, keep our distance from other people when we are out and to essentially avoid all non household face to face contact with anyone; even our own closest family members. Whilst I fully understand and support the reasons behind lockdown, I am now hearing many people talking about the fear involved in lockdown measures being relaxed. Quite understandably coming out of lockdown is provoking apprehension, worry and fear in many of us.
So, what can we do to help us to integrate back into the world outside of our homes as lockdown measures relax more and more? Using my experience of working with clients, I thought I would share some tips to help.
As shops begin to open, beaches become more accessible and our parks become a place to see our loved ones (one to one at a 2m distance contact at time of writing), you might be wondering how safe you would feel outside of your home. This is a good question and you are right to think about it. The first thing to ask yourself is;
'What do I need to help me to feel safer?'
Begin by going to your chosen place during times when you know it might be quieter. Worry is often triggered due to feeling a lack of control and it is easier to feel more in control if there are less people around. Whilst you are out try not to think of everyone as a enemy, think of them as team members, all in a similar and difficult situation. A kind thank you when someone waits for you or a smile as you wait in the queue go a long way, and help you to feel more connected to people again.
Try to choose places that you normally enjoy visiting, places that feel relaxing and comfortable to you. When you visit these familiar places it will help to evoke a feeling of pleasure, even though the experience maybe slightly different to usual, it can still be enjoyable.
Take precautions that help you to feel safer but try not to go overboard. Use hand sanitizer regularly whilst you are out if you can't wash your hands. Wear a face covering in line with the government guidance and keep your distance from others. I find it helps me to keep an eye on where people are and cross over the road to avoid congested areas, this is a good tip as it helps you to feel more in control.
When it comes to meeting up with another person not from your household, have a think about a nice quiet place outdoors to meet them. Choose somewhere that feels comfortable. If you are worried about eating and drinking, try packing your own food and drink to enjoy whilst you are there. If you are concerned about keeping your distance, let the other person sit down first and then you can position yourself 2m away from them. Enjoy this social time in the relative safety of the great outdoors - it will get easier the more you do it and a good old chat does everyone good.
Be careful not to overestimate the numbers of people affected by the virus, whilst I am not playing down this illness, the numbers in the community are currently at a fairly low level. If it helps to understand the figures try watching the daily government briefing each day to help you to keep up with the facts. When sitting at home it can feel like the world outside is a scary place, but in reality things are just different and you will need to take more precautions than normal.
Finally, whilst it is a good idea to seek out the facts from reputable sources, be careful around reading fake news and lots of unqualified opinions on social media. These really help to feed our fear and make us feel more avoidant. If you find yourself thinking about lots of worse case scenarios, consider how much you believe these worst case scenarios will come true. My clients often find it easier to think about this using numbers from 1 to 10 to rate their belief, i.e 1 - I don't believe the worst case scenario will come true and 10 - I really believe it will come true. This will help you to put things into perspective and challenge negative thoughts.
I also wanted to reach out and say that the feelings you are experiencing are natural and understandable, however, using safe practices and gradually integrating back into visiting some of the places that you love and seeing friends and family (when we are allowed to do so) it will soon begin to enhance and improve our quality of life again.
This post was written by Counsellor and Supervisor; Becky Whittaker, who runs a busy practice in Newton Abbot, Devon.