As some of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to be eased, many people – especially more vulnerable older people – will naturally feel apprehensive and even anxious.
Although the number of coronavirus cases is falling steadily, it hasn’t gone away and it’s just as important as ever to remain vigilant. Having said that, the official advice on what you can do, where you can go and who you can meet (while still socially distancing) is beginning to change.
After almost three months of lockdown, many people will be feeling anxious, but help is at hand from older people’s charity Independent Age. It has teamed up with psychologist Corinne Sweet to share some helpful advice on managing anxiety about lockdown restrictions lifting. Here are Corinne’s key points:
Recognise it’s normal – Whether or not you’ve had a diagnosis of anxiety, feeling worried about lockdown restrictions lifting is completely natural. No-one knows exactly what things will be like, other than that it will be a while before life returns to the pre-lockdown normal, and having some anxiety about mixing with others is fine. Remember you’re not alone.
Take it at your own pace – Some people will be raring to get out, while others might be more cautious. Don’t worry about wanting to take things more slowly, and don’t let anyone pressure you into seeing them in person, or meeting in a public place, until you’re comfortable with it. Anxiety may also make you feel more tired, so make sure you’re getting enough rest and looking after your physical health too.
Talk to someone – Talk to someone you can trust about your worries. This could be a friend, family member, or a mental health charity helpline, such as the Samaritans, who are available 24/7. Talking to someone who has had the same fears could help, so if you don’t know anyone who you can talk to, there may be local online support groups available.
Meet one-on-one at first – For the time being, we’re only allowed to meet one other person at a two-metre distance anyway, but you may feel you want to continue doing this even after restrictions are lifted further. It’s also safest to meet in a park or another outside space, where the risk of catching coronavirus is lower.
Take precautions if you need to – If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask and/or gloves to go outside, or crossing the road when you see someone else, do that. It’s OK to take precautions to look after yourself, and you mustn’t feel silly about doing what you need to.
Limit the news – Limit your access to the news, perhaps just limiting it to certain times of the day, and make sure you’re only looking at trusted news sources.
Write things down – Writing down what you’re worried about, things that make you happy, and coping strategies that have worked before could help. Keeping a diary will allow you to notice patterns and identify the things that make you feel anxious.
Allocate ‘worry time’ – Give yourself a specific 10 to 15-minute period each day to allow yourself to acknowledge what you’re worried about. Make sure you time yourself and don’t try to come up with solutions during this time. At bedtime, you could write down any worries on paper then throw them in the bin so they don’t keep you awake. If you start to worry outside of this time, tell yourself to wait.
Confront your fears – Write a list of what worries you about the lockdown restrictions lifting and put it in order of most worrying to least worrying. Then work your way through the list, starting with the thing that worries you least, using small steps to tackle each worry and help you confront the situation. The more you do this, the more your confidence will increase.
Speak to your GP – There are a range of different treatments available for anxiety, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), talking therapies, and medication. Your GP will be able to help you get access to whatever works best for you, or a combination of treatments, if your anxiety is affecting your life and preventing you from being able to do things.
• You can see all of Independent Age’s advice relating to coronavirus by clicking here. The charity has also produced an informative and easy-to-read guide on ‘Managing Anxiety’ generally. You can read it online, download it, order paper copies or listen to an audio version by clicking here.
You can find all the latest and updated government guidance on coronavirus by clicking here.