With so much seeming light at the end of the tunnel many of us are starting to feel the release from the binds of lockdown. With that, the turning of the season toward budding days of spring and impending Summer bloom brings the promise of new growth. An emergence of optimism and liberty, releasing us from the strangle hold of living through a Global Pandemic.
But what if you don’t feel this way. What if the liberation you have been seeking since your freedom was curtailed makes you anxious? The thought of managing life at large can bring about an anxiety that some didn’t expect and it is a perfectly natural reaction to the unnatural times in which we have been living.
A shrinking life.
There was a sense of containment with lockdown. Everything slowed down and life became more manageable day to day. Many of us actually welcomed this changed pace. It was a necessary enforced pause that we could not or would not gift ourselves. There was lots of talk about the damaging nature of lockdown on our mental health but I also encountered people that flourished in their smaller world.
If the pandemic showed us anything it was the benefit of slowing down. Many of us reconnected with the natural world in a way we haven’t since childhood. Exploring green spaces, taking regular walks and tending to a vegetable garden. Wild swimming, cycling and reading that pile of books beside the chair. We had no friends to schedule or family weekend commitments. Amidst frightening and sad times it can feel hard to admit that we like our smaller, more manageable world.
Driving the car, hustling to work or tackling the bedlam of the school run. During ‘ordinary’ times these daily stressors can take a level of resilience we might not have missed. When my own children returned to school the crazy pick-up gave me chest pains. With so many more parents driving and no lift share it was bedlam. We can lose confidence doing challenging yet simple things like driving in rush hour traffic or the big weekly shop when we take a prolonged holiday.
Speaking as an introverted empath, the ‘space’ provided by lockdown was appealing. I could choose a schedule based on virtual meetings, arrange contained meet ups with loved ones and spend more time on home bound recharge.
We may question what the World will feel like? For some, shielding has been in place for over twelve months. Complete isolation with a view to staying safe. It is natural to feel confused about the new social norms and question others commitment to keeping their distance. Fear of contamination, variant strains, a hug from a loved one, the shopping trolley handle have all become very real yet unexpected anxieties. It will take time to readjust to calmer waters after tackling stormy seas.
Decide what to leave behind
There is always something to learn from difficult times. Perhaps the pandemic revealed elements of you hiding in the shadows ready to step forward and shine. Did it suddenly become clear what parts of your life were not working? Cracks in relationships with yourself and others. If you feel that slowing down has gifted you a renewed perspective, take the opportunity to decide what to take forward and what to leave behind. If all around you has crumbled it allows space to build new foundations.
Implement new boundaries
Maintain healthy boundaries around your time and commitments. Even if you can do something it doesn’t mean you should. Be brave in asserting what feels comfortable for you. Turn the ‘new’ normal into ‘your’ normal.
Take baby steps
Do not feel you have to open the flood gates too soon. For some it is a mad rush to the shopping centre at first opportunity and that is fine. It is also fine to sit in your garden a little longer and watch the spring bulbs bloom. Do not feel pressurised to run at the first opportunity because those around you are raring to leap.
Talk about your feelings. Communicate how you are feeling with those around you. If you are taking baby steps, being mindful of boundaries and saying no to others it does not mean you have to process your feelings alone. Share your thoughts and talk through any fears you have about our ever changing circumstances.