With UK restrictions due to relax almost entirely on 19 July, many of us are struggling with feelings of anxiety about the prospect of society opening up again. That's amplified by the backdrop of worrying statistics that suggest that, as much as we'd love to get back to normal, it's perhaps not quite safe to do so yet. T3 spoke to life coach Grace McMahon, from Beingwell, to hear her advice on how to deal with any apprehensions you might be having.
"Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future, we don’t fully know what will happen, but we can choose how to react to this news," she says. "We don’t need to rush to follow new rules or the long-awaited lack of, we can choose not to rush back to life pre-pandemic, and we can choose what we want to do."
If you're feeling anxious and stressed at the prospect of everything opening up again, read on for Grace's top tips on how to keep those worries at bay and manage them effectively.
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1. Go at your own pace
First up, remember, there's no requirement for you to join in with everything immediately. "Go at your own pace," says Grace. "These are guidelines not ‘musts’, stick with what you’re comfortable with. If you aren’t ready to bin your mask, you’re not alone." (If you do want to mask up, our roundup of the best face masks will help you find one that's comfortable for you.)
However, she suggests not avoiding things entirely. "Avoiding outings while things are easing will make it much harder to return in the long-run, so make small plans that you feel ready for," she adds.
2. Practice relaxation techniques
"Find something that helps you relax, so that when anxiety and stress do hit you can use these techniques to help manage," suggests Grace. That doesn't need to be full-on meditation – it could be as simple as deep, slow breathing, or even just an activity you find relaxing, like cooking ("If you’re out and about and can’t whip out your pots and pans, recite a recipe you know well to help ground your thoughts again," adds Grace). If you are at home or have a private moment, these breathing exercises for anxiety might help keep you feeling calm.
Grace also suggests making an effort to challenge worried thoughts, to figure out if it's a legitimate concern or just your brain catastrophising. "Worry can really get in the way of living life, but often our worries aren’t based on factual evidence. Ask yourself ‘what is true?’, about this thought, when the fear strikes and holds you back."
3. Talk to people
Don't keep everything bottled up – it can be helpful to discuss your concerns with friends and family. "Knowing others are feeling the same help us feel less alone and your people will be prepared for you to politely decline any invites you are not ready for without hard feelings," explains Grace.
Pressure to be out and out again can often come from what we see others doing on social media, so watch your scrolling habits, says Grace. "Sitting on Instagram watching everyone have a wonderful time is a quick path to feeling rubbish about yourself. Remember, what they don’t show you is that the picnic they’re currently enjoying took eight weeks to organise – nor all the other stresses that come with leaving the house."