Dealing with 'return to normal' anxiety
Approximately 2 months ago, we were all forced to go into isolation and to sacrifice our regular activities, in a bid to flatten the curve. It was a big transition that made us long for the day that things would return to normal. Now that Australia has slowed down rates of COVID-19, flattened the curve, and begun to ease restrictions, why is it that some of us feel anxious about resuming normal life?
Psychologists call it ‘re-entry syndrome’ or ‘reverse culture shock’. It is emotional and psychological distress suffered by people that have spent significant time in a different cultural environment, on their return to their normal setting. It’s that feeling you get when you return home after travelling abroad and it can result in unprecedented difficulty in readjusting to society, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.
The first challenge we collectively faced was coming to terms with a global pandemic, the second was going into lockdown and the third is now re-entering society. It proves its challenges more so because we are not returning to normal, we are returning to a different version of the old normal where COVID-19 is still a health risk and practices to keep us safe will be in place. E.g. wiping down surfaces, washing our hands, social distancing etc. Additionally, we all got used to the unusual circumstances we found ourselves in and now it’s time to transition again to a new milieu, which can feel taxing. For some of us, the end of lockdown means the end of isolation and working from home advantages. We may feel sad and stressed that we will have less time on our hands or the return to everyday frenetic life may be too much or the thought of waking up at 6 am, getting dressed properly, commuting to work, and being in a crowded room is anxiety-provoking. Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, those that have continued working through lockdown and have indulged in the solace and ease may soon lose that feeling of ”personal space” and start to feel anxious.
Isolation has been a very emotionally charged event and unlike anything else we have experienced before so it is common for Australians to feel some level of trepidation. Anxiety across Australia has increased twofold, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The feeling of not knowing what’s to come and not adjusting fast enough can be tough on our mental health.
As the new normal looms on the horizon, here are 5 practices to deal with ‘return to normal’ anxiety.
1. You are not alone
More people than you may expect are feeling uneasy about returning to ‘normal’. Confide in your friends and family about how you’re feeling, instead of sweeping it under the rug. Connecting with others is a great way to seek support during these uncertain times.
2. Maintain some lockdown routines
Just because lockdown is over, it doesn’t mean you have to stop your lockdown routines. If you started positive habits such as reading, painting, baking, or exercising, during isolation, continue practicing them. Additionally, we have all spent a bit more time with our family and pets so don’t forget about them when things return to normal. Having that level of consistency in a time of change will be beneficial. If you found remote work suited you well, consider speaking with your workplace about some flexible work options.
3. Double check government COVID-19 information
With so much COVID-related news circulating around, be sure to double check the facts so that you know exactly what’s going on and how to prepare for it. Some trusted websites are:
4. Be kind to yourself
Just because others may be feeling energised by the post-lockdown celebrations, that doesn’t mean you have to. It’s okay to feel otherwise, so allow yourself some time to process your thoughts and emotions. We have just experienced a global pandemic so show yourself some love and compassion.
5. Ease into it
The lifting of restrictions may bring a nation-wide emotional crash. Humans are social creatures and we’ve been deprived of normal social interactions for months. Take your time and slowly ease into your social schedule and work-life. Your social skills may be a bit rusty so take it day-by-day.
Remember, we are in this together. The transition into a ‘new normal’ will be challenging on us all, even with these practises implemented. If you require additional support, please contact any of the following support services:
- Beyond Blue forums or Support Service 1300 22 4636
- Head to Health
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- MensLine Australia 1300 789 978