When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we were confined to our homes like never before - making up workspaces on the couch, homeschooling and socially distancing from our loved ones. At the time, many were feeling anxious about the new world order, what it meant, how it was affecting our mental wellbeing and how we would ever go back to the way things were.
But as Australia begins to ease its lockdowns - from beauty services and bars reopening to many returning to the office - another wave of anxiety is about to set in. If you're beginning to feel stressed and anxious about a post-lockdown life, you're not alone.
"It’s not surprising that people are anxious about leaving what, for many, had become their safe haven," says Dr Sarah Mundy, Consultant Clinical Psychologist. "However, we need to remember that humans have a need for connection and we're designed for living in larger groups. Anxiety about going out is absolutely understandable, and quite normal at this time."
While the feelings that are starting to creep in are normal, Dr Munday says "avoidance is known to reinforce anxiety". Facing the realities of life post-lockdown may be causing us to grapple with new norms, but it's important to remind ourselves that change (especially ones as life-altering as the pandemic) take time.
"It’s good to reflect on our anxieties as they are likely to not just relate to physical illness but also social confidence," Dr Munday adds. "If you are really struggling, break it down into steps, start with the least feared outline and slowly build it up. Teach yourself ways to calm your body and don’t get angry with yourself for feeling worried."
Basically, take it one day at a time and don't think what life will be like in the next few months. Accept there are things you can't control and start to focus on the things you can. Concentrate on positive coping strategies such as exercise, meditation and fresh air, while monitoring your inner dialogue with thoughts that are helpful.
Clinical psychologist and Activist Practitioner Magazine Editor, Ruth Nelson spoke about ways to deal with anxiety.
Ruth suggests using mindfulness, a term that means bringing yourself to be fully present in the moment, to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
"You can't take those feelings away but you can take the edge off them. You can do things to help make it more manageable, to get a break from them. Try gentle, compassionate movement that's tricky enough to fill up your concentration such as drawing with your non-dominant hand, drawing with both hands at once, throwing a ball from one hand to the other or an online yoga class."
Getting some exercise into the day is one of the best ways to get all those feel-good endorphins flowing and Ruth recommends moving your body as much as you can and are able.
Not feeling up to it? "If you're slumped in despair on the couch, just move your arms or whatever you can," Ruth says.
If you're looking for ideas, check out some of the marie claire team's favourite at-home workout programs.
Speak About Your Feelings With Others
Ruth says the most important thing to do is to continuously remember to reach out.
"Don't be afraid right now of reaching out to other people because they need you, and you need them. We're only going to get through this by being together. Support others as though they cannot live without you. Ask them: ‘Can I help? Are you coping? How are you?' Tell them: ‘I care about you. I love you.'"