Easing of lockdown will allow us to get back to the people and things we love, but it's OK if you feel worried about going back to something more "normal" as lockdown restrictions loosen.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has been hard for us all and we have all experienced the effects differently, including those of us who have been shielding. Even positive change can lead to anxiety, and it can take time to readjust to things we have not done for a while.
Feelings of post-lockdown anxiety are likely to pass with time as we get used to the "new normal" but it's important to do what we can to take care of our mental health.
There are lots of things that can help you to manage these feelings and make it easier to adjust.
Here are our top tips for taking care of your mental health as things change.
On this page
Go at your own pace
Do not avoid things entirely
Get your information from the right sources
Discuss any changes with others
Make time to relax
Challenge unhelpful thoughts
Tell someone how you feel
Plan social occasions
Find routine where you can
Write down your thoughts
Focus on the present
1. Go at your own pace
It might be tempting to make lots of plans and say yes to everything as things start to open up, but there's no need to rush.
Take it step by step, and only do what is comfortable and safe for you to ease back into socialising – then you can build your time back up as your confidence returns.
2. Do not avoid things entirely
Avoiding the things that make us anxious can sometimes feel like the easier option in the short term, but this can make it harder to start facing our fears in the longer term.
Instead, try to set yourself small but manageable targets – like meeting 1 person for a coffee or snack outside, or getting a haircut – and gradually build up from there. It can help to confide in a friend or family member so they can support you to overcome your anxieties.
3. Get your information from the right sources
Lots of conflicting and confusing information about COVID-19 and the easing of restrictions, makes it hard to know what you can and cannot do or who to trust.
If you are not sure what is or is not allowed, stick to trusted sources like GOV.UK and the NHS COVID-19 pages for the most up-to-date information.
4. Discuss any changes with others
Before socialising with others, talk about the situation with them to make sure everybody is on the same page about what feels comfortable.
If you live with other people, it's a good idea to talk to them about changes to restrictions as well. Being aware of everybody's fears and expectations can help to avoid conflict.
If you are worried that changes to restrictions may put pressure on your family, help for parents is available.
5. Make time to relax
Being able to see more of our friends and family, and visit places that might have been closed until now, is exciting. But it can also be a lot to take in all at once, so it's important to find regular time for yourself to relax too.
This audio-only video will guide you through an exercise to help you recognise when you're starting to get tense, and how to relax your body and mind. 6. Challenge unhelpful thoughts
It's natural to feel worried every now and again, but our anxious thoughts can sometimes be unhelpful.
If you can learn to identify and separate unhelpful thoughts from helpful ones, you can find a different way to look at the situation. Watch our video to find out more.
This short video will give you some practical tips on how to challenge your thoughts and start to break unhelpful cycles. 7. Tell someone how you feel
It's easy to feel isolated or lonely when we're struggling. However, chances are that someone we know feels exactly how we do too.
Opening up to a person we trust can be really helpful, whether it's a friend or family member, a GP or an organisation's helpline or online forum.
If you are not ready to start socialising but are feeling lonely, there's plenty of support out there, like the Let's Talk Loneliness Campaign, and people you can speak to at any time. NHS-recommended helplines