We have been though so much in the past 12 months. In March 2020 we had to redefine how we live our lives practically overnight. Navigating a global pandemic has certainly taken a lot out of us but has also and taught us a lot about human resilience too. People have navigated working from home, home-schooling and other variables including job security, financial pressures and huge changes to the way that we interact with others. Frontline workers including NHS staff, teachers, supermarket and delivery workers have been tirelessly supporting us. For many ‘Covid fatigue’ has set in. We are innately social beings and the psychological impact of social isolation and lockdown restrictions have been profound. Some have experienced ongoing anxiety, lowered mood, sleep difficulties and frustration at the ongoing situation.
Many people are hopeful for the coming of June and beyond when we may be able to begin to socialise as we used to. I love the idea of midsummer night as a possible benchmark for a glimpse of pre pandemic life again. However, it is important to consider that not everyone may feel that this is a turning point for them. For some, the thought of returning to “life again” is a source of uncertainly and anxiety. After all, it took a lot of work for us to adapt to lockdown life and the restrictions imposed. It takes time for the human brain to learn new behaviours, and this is not something we can simply ‘undo’. After many months of adapting and adhering to a new way of living, it is not realistic to expect to just snap back in to a pre pandemic way of living. You are not alone if you are feeling unsure or even anxious about how life may look again. This may stem for fears about socialising again or the continued threat from the virus, it is understandable that we may be anxious going forward. Not everyone may want to ‘run along the beach’ to freedom as we have seen on TV. Autonomy is key at this stage. While there is a government framework to exit lockdown, we can utilise our autonomy in how and when move forward. It can be easy to get caught up in what other people may be feeling and how they are behaving as a result. It is important to try not to get caught up in comparisons and navigate your own way forward. Also, being mindful of how others may feel about socialising and engaging in the community again, even if family and friends and of course social media seem to be presenting different views to ourselves. We also may be concerned with how to manage interacting with people again in a safe way while not causing offence.
We have had to part with much of our own autonomy over the past year and it is important that we feel able to utilise our autonomy going forward within the frameworks and rules for risk management. There will certainly be continued things along the way that we need to navigate many people and children remain unvaccinated and although many have, they can still spread the virus. Therefore, social distancing and mask wearing remain of importance.
It may be helpful to consider how each stage of the ‘exit’ plan looks for you rather than over focusing on the long term right now. Many have revaluated how we live our lives over the past year and may want to redefine elements going forward. This may include our social circle, working from home vs in the office and the pace at which we live our lives. We may want to be more assertive over what we want and don’t want. For example, feeling able to say ‘no’ if we don’t want to socialise in a particular way. It is also important to have a healthy balance between autonomy and possible isolation. There is a difference between anxiety dominating the way we re-emerge into life again and being guided by our values in respect to how we want to live our lives. We need to be kind to ourselves and allow time to adapt to a new way of living again. We must avoid the trap of ‘catching up’ with life again at the expense of our own emotional well-being. Its OK to manage our own risk concerns. A combination of autonomy, risk management, altruism and hope are a good way forward. The more we all navigate this together the sooner we can move forward with our lives in line with what we value.
Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo- Horsham Psychology