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Empowerment’s Counsellor Sarah talks about re-entry anxiety and life after lockdown

Life has been extremely different for everyone during this lockdown period. What we used to know and take for granted before like nipping to the shops, has now become a well-planned exercise in order to maintain safety, provoking and heightening anxiety. Many of us have yearned for the simplicity of visiting relatives, hugging loved ones, chatting outside of the school gates, commuting to work, dining out or going to the gym. But with this yeaning comes new found anxieties as we have to learn and make new adjustments with regular life. It is however quite normal to feel anxious when we are faced with new lifestyle adjustments, based on a situation that is beyond our control.

People have been living within their ‘safety bubble’ during lockdown, working from home, home schooling and receiving online deliveries. Whilst front line workers have been risking their health to pave the way to provide safety for others. Many people have faced challenging times as their worlds have drastically changed and been faced with employment difficulties, financial concerns, education worries, holidays and trips cancelled, bereavement, and coping alone in grief without closure. Support networks diminished as we faced isolation alone. On the other hand, lockdown may have been a positive experience for some as they have reprioritised what is important to them, found new ways to communicate and stay in touch with loved ones and friends and feel anxious about life returning back to their previous normal that they no-longer appreciate. Having been given a safe space to explore and reflect upon a new quality of life.

Re-entry anxiety is a fear based stress unable to adapt to previous routines, or not wanting to. The fear of re-entry back into our old lives with new adaptations can cause discomfort adjusting to new social distancing measures out in the community. Some people find a new normal overwhelming, the fear of the unknown, the fear of change when we have been safely living and adapting within our ‘safety bubble’.

For me, I have felt anxious. I have felt alone at times. I feel fortunate to have been able to continue to work from home, and keep my family safe. I have social distanced when I have been out and maintained safety parameters but also felt anxious when around others or entering shops or buildings. The noticeable Covid safety plans are visible wherever you go when out in the community, and things I once took for granted I now appreciate a lot more. This has been a whole new experience for us all and none of us have ever lived through a worldwide pandemic, so life will be different for everyone and re-entry is inescapable. To ease anxiety is to go at your own pace, and create a new safe space that works for you. Plan ahead, and allow plenty of time for your journeys so you are prepared as this will help ease your anxiety and possibly help reduce any panic attacks you may have.

Anxiety is a normal process that at times can become unmanageable and unable to control. There is no rush to re-enter back into the community. Take things slowly and if you are struggling reach out for the support of a therapist, one that works for you and will help you understand and gain clarity about your life experiences and feelings. But remember you have lived through a pandemic, try not to put pressure on yourself and control what you can to keep yourself safe.

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