We’ve been burned before (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown has presented us with a semblance of hope at last.
After what was truly the winter of our discontent, and with the NHS’s rollout of the vaccine moving at the speed of light, there is a plan in place to get the country back to something like normal.
However, after multiple lockdowns and a ‘cancelled’ Christmas, there are many who are unsure whether they can trust the proposed relaxation of restrictions.
Can we really risk getting our hopes up? Can we ever trust again?
Counselling Directory Member Thalia Joyner says: ‘It is clear that this is going to affect everyone differently.
‘Some will be feeling more anxious, not sure if it is safe, while others will be desperate to get back to normal quickly.’
Counselling Directory member Kirsty Taylor explains: ‘Many people will be in a position where they want to get excited about the idea of coming out of lockdown, but worried about being disappointed again.’
The key might be to proceed with caution.
Rather than planning a massive June 21 blowout, manage expectations and start small to avoid a crushing let-down.
‘If you feel you can’t trust the Government’s Covid response anymore, you can try and avoid disappointment by keeping expectations low,’ says Kirsty.
‘It is useful to hold on to hope, but perhaps plan small things with the expectation that they might not happen.
‘Start small, and build new plans as we meet each milestone for lockdown being reduced.
Restrictions have been in place nearly a year, and change is stressful (Picture: Getty Images)
‘Make your own roadmap for coming out of lockdown, but keep each step small and manageable and celebrate each goal you do achieve.’
Counting our blessings is another good idea. Simply appreciating the good bits of life makes a lot of difference.
Kirsty says: ‘It helps to be grateful for the small things we still have control of; walking, speaking to friends, being healthy, knowing that one day life will return to a place where we can hug our family and friends.
‘It’s also important to try and keep spirits up as we exit this lockdown and perhaps journaling your feelings of hope/fear/disappointment will help to move them onto paper and out of your brain.’
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott says that, rather than worrying about whether we can trust the Government’s lockdown response, we should reframe and focus on how we cope with uncertainty.
He explains: ‘Politicians like to pretend they are in control. Why vote for them if not? But actually they have as little power as all of us.
‘The pandemic has writ that large; we are small in the face of global forces.
‘Learning to accept that life is full of uncertainty is the key to letting go of anxiety.
‘We need to plan for a number of possible outcomes from this time and keep it simple. We also have to accept the world has changed, and we are not going back to normal.
‘Instead, we are going forward to a new reality, and we are learning more effective ways of living with the pandemic. No one knows what that new future looks like.’
It’s normal to feel anxious, and it’s not always the best idea to try to get rid of that emotion or squash it down.
We need to learn how to work with it.
‘Anxiety and stress is a normal response to anything that is a threat,’ Thalia says.
‘We all have a place in our brain that is like a smoke detector, an alarm that signals any possible threat to us, it can be physical threat, emotional or psychological. The pandemic and virus is a threat to us on many levels.
‘When possible threat is detected it mounts a response in our nervous system triggering all sorts of physical and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fuzzy headed, fatigue, digestives issues, low mood and sleep problems to name a few.
‘Our “smoke detectors” have been in overdrive for a long period of time, this will continue even when restrictions are being lifted, some will find that those feelings may get worse as they are even more worried.
It’s natural to worry about what the future will look like (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
‘As humans we are not very good at naturally completing our stress cycles or releasing the stress hormones that this alarm system releases into our body, so we need to consciously put things in place to de-stress.’
What is vital is to keep a close eye on our mental health over the coming months, recognise that we might feel stressed or overwhelmed, and treat ourselves with kindness.
‘Ensure you are giving yourself enough self-care, rest, sleep and focusing on achieving small goals,’ Kirsty adds.
So how can we keep track of our mental health as we wait for the Government’s roadmap to play out?
Thalia recommends having daily check-ins with yourself to determine how you’re feeling.
She adds: ‘Self-care is vital to recharge our batteries, cope with the stress and also to keep ourselves safe. Self-care is different for each person, but it is anything that helps you feel more relaxed, that recharges your batteries and de-stresses.
‘For some people it is exercise, for others it can be a craft, baking, reading, chatting to a friend or a walk out in the fresh air.
‘I use the battery check-in for many clients as a quick and easy indication of how we are currently thinking and feeling about our mental health.’
How to do the battery check-in
The battery check-in
- Green: full battery and resilient
- Amber: OK but could easily tip to being wiped out
- Red: exhausted, feeling terrible and overwhelmed
Ask yourself these questions:
- Where is my emotional battery level?
- Where is my physical battery level?
- Where can I put some stop gaps in to recharge?
- Do I feel more stressed or emotional than normal?
- What do I need to be able to look after my wellbeing?
Keep in touch with your emotions, try not to judge any anxiety that emerges, and tread slowly and carefully, rather than feeling like you have to rush into excitement mode.
This is a strange time. It’s okay.
To talk about mental health in an open, judgement-free space, join Metro.co.uk’s Facebook group, Mentally Yours.
Need support for your mental health?
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected]