How to manage post-lockdown anxiety

Perhaps you’ve come to realise that your life pre-lockdown wasn’t working so well. Maybe you were rushed off your feet every day, burdened with stress, unable to concentrate on anything. Lockdown has brought about an enforced sense of peace - slowing our lives down considerably. Most of us are going to bed earlier and rising later, taking proper lunch breaks, moving as a means of meditation rather than fat loss. Does going back to ‘normal’ mean going back to habits that weren’t serving us?

Or perhaps you’re genuinely afraid of catching coronavirus the moment society reopens. You feel dread at the thought of going on public transport or visiting non-essential shops and despite the fact that you want to see your friends, it’s not without a great amount of unease. 

Whatever the source of your anxiety, know that you’re really not alone; so many of us are in the same situation. 

The UK’s leading user-led anxiety charity, Anxiety UK surveyed 745 members to ask about lockdown easing. 67% reported an increase in their anxiety as a direct result of the prospect of the restrictions lifting.

When asked what specifically raised their anxiety levels, fear of contracting the virus was the most common worry with 57% citing it as their biggest concern.

Using public transport (49.3%), going out in public spaces (47.5%), going shopping (45.9%), returning to work or education (45.8%) and attending large, social events (45.6%) were the next most feared activities given by respondents.

And despite that most of us have only been working from home for the past 12 weeks, over half of respondents said they’d become so used to it that they worried about coping with getting back into a pre-lockdown routine.

‘After being inside for a long time, it is naturally going to feel strange and challenging for people to start to return to their pre-pandemic routine,’ explains Anxiety UK CEO Nicky Lidbetter.  

‘This is to be expected and is perfectly normal, however for those with pre-existing anxiety disorders, the easing of lockdown may well exacerbate anxiety, and it is essential therefore that additional support is made available for this group of people.’

Signs you’re living with post-lockdown anxiety

As Nicky says, for the most part, it’s normal to feel worried or on edge. See if you notice the following symptoms happening:

  • Recurring worries about the future
  • Feeling unsettled
  • Sleep issues (insomnia, nightmares, night sweats etc)
  • Constantly checking the news or social media about coronavirus
  • Panic attacks (in extreme cases)

A bit of anxiety is useful in keeping us from acting irresponsibly but you might find it spiralling out of control - leading to avoidance, binge drinking, over-medicating and over-eating. And eventually, it could trigger actual agoraphobia. 

How to deal with post-lockdown anxiety

Take it day by day

The process of unlocking is going to be a long one so there’s no need to hurry your acceptance of changing circumstances. 

Set yourself little goals. See if you can do a shop at your local supermarket rather than doing a home delivery, writing a small list so that you don’t have to spend too long in there. If that’s too much, go to your corner shop for a newspaper first and work up to the bigger stores. Go for a walk or jog around your local park at a busier time of day. Think about arranging to meet a friend for an evening walk. 

Accept that there are things you can’t control…

You can’t control the government’s post-lockdown policies, or the nature of this virus. You probably can’t determine where or when you work, whether your kids go to school or go about avoiding society forever. That’s fine. Acknowledge what you can’t change and start working to make peace with that fact.

…but you do have the power to decrease any risk

You can, however, control your reaction to circumstances and the chance of picking up the virus. Wear a mask in shops, stay 2m apart from other people, carry hand sanitiser. If someone gets a little too close, move away and appreciate that you’ve done your best to stay safe.

Channel your energy into positive coping strategies

There’s nothing like losing yourself in something physical to distract from creeping anxiety. Exercise, walking outside, painting, baking, playing music - these are all things that require your full attention and have positive outcomes. You might be left with a delicious treat to eat that evening or feel pumped with endorphins from a 30 minute run. Use this nervous energy to improve your life - however tiny those improvements may be.

Try meditation and journalling 

An obvious one but meditation and journalling can really help to work out how you feel and what you can do about those feelings. Often the process of writing our worries down and reading over them is enough to see how unfounded or manageable they are. 

Seek professional help

If your anxiety is spiralling and none of these strategies are of any use, remember that there are tonnes of people out there who can help. Your GP will be only too willing to discuss or advise on potential therapies while there are lots of helplines out there who can offer advice. 

Give Anxiety UK a call on 03444 775 774, or text them on 07537 416 905

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 28 May 2020
Next review: 28 May 2023