Stay at home orders, loss of employment, mask wearing, social distancing, financial pressures and loneliness are all experiences we have faced throughout the pandemic As we come out of lockdown there are new challenges we face as we re-integrate back to our pre-COVID lives.
Psychologists have noticed people have experienced a range of feelings and reactions about lockdown ending. Those who have pre-existing mental health issues (especially anxiety), tend to be more anxious about re-engaging social activities; having to interact with groups of people and managing additional commitments. For essential workers, the change hasn’t felt too different, some have felt a little more overwhelmed at the prospect of adding social activities to their existing family and work commitments. A lot of people are experiencing trepidation about returning to the office and most report feeling tired and exhausted from the saturation of information related to the Pandemic.
Children are experiencing mixed responses about the return to school. Whilst most are excited to be back with their friends, some are feeling nervous about the return to the demands of school routine and some are worrying about COVID.
Many people have expressed concern about vaccinations and how to manage tricky conversations with friends and family about vaccination.
Overall, we have found that most people are experiencing a mix of relief, excitement and anxiety about lockdown ending. Relief about being able to get back to work, connect with loved ones (as humans we need connection like we need oxygen, food and water) relief about being able to access personal grooming services (to improve our self-esteem) and relief about being able to engage in our stress reducing and fun activities (dinner with friends, travel, sport etc).
One of positives I have noticed from this experience, is a de-stigmatisation of mental health. There has been more conversations and awareness about looking out for and managing our mental health. Hopefully this continues beyond lockdown! Some other silver linings; we have learned more about ourselves and each other during this time and we have been forced to be more reflective and to re-think how we live.
There is no right or wrong way to feel during these odd times. In addition to suggesting actions such as; get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and connect with others, I would suggest; notice and make room for whatever feelings/sensations you are experiencing and if you need to, take it slowly re-integrating. Talk to your closest people about how you are feeling and what you need right now.
If in a few months post lockdown lifting you notice your mood remains low or you are feeling increased anxiety and it is getting in the road of your functioning, it might be time to seek professional help. Start by talking to your GP who will point you in the direction of appropriate support. At the moment the demand on mental health services is high, and it can be difficult to get an appointment with a local Psychologist quickly, so in the interim I would suggest accessing some of the fabulous online/phone resources that are available;
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (24/7)
Mindspot– 1800 61 44 34
Black Dog Institute