Regaining confidence after lockdown

What the pandemic has done to us – psychologically speaking. Dr Jane Kelly looks at why we feel anxious and uncertain about leaving lockdown.
Coming back out of lockdown

Readjusting after lockdown

And so we are suddenly being given freedom! I can’t quite believe it, although I have longed for freedom for so long, why am I feeling so strange? How do we set about regaining confidence after lockdown? This lockdown was really tough, a really long 3 nearly four months. A stretch of winter is difficult enough in my house with an active 10 year old boy who needs the usual distractions, swimming, drumming, clubs and dropping off at friends for much needed playtime. It has been horrible. Yuck. The whole thing makes me shiver! I resign from homeschooling. Never again!

Freedom with restrictions

I’ve been dreaming of eating out, going for a swim, booking a holiday, but all of these activities are thwarted, different, not the same.  So all of a sudden I’m thrown back into an emotional  place where I’m not actually free. Because those freedoms have restrictions.

regaining confidence after lockdown - eating out
Eat out to help out and social distanced meeting take the fun out of ‘going out’

Taking the fun out of eating out

Eating out would mean we have to sit outside and of course two weeks ago we had 22 degrees, perfect, but this week we have had snow! I honestly know that my expectation of sitting outside with a gin and tonic and being served food will definitely be marred by feeling chilly, the slower service than normal will erk (as catering is having to do so much more regarding “safety” regulations).  It might be lovely but it might not and that’s a lot of money to spend if its not. Not to mention eating with my bubble, well, lets face it we are all actually tired of each other, gathering for meal times became tiresome as we have little to report back on and we are all bored of each other, we are desperate for other company. Its not personal, its just lockdown.

regaining confidence after lockdown - lockdown loneliness
‘Keep calm and carry on’ is not an effective way to deal with loneliness and your mental health.

Mental health

Of course the silent pandemic is the rise in mental health problems almost too overwhelming to begin to talk about. Anxiety, depression, our school children finding the anxiety of returning to school too much, and imagine being launched straight back into GCSE or A-level stress, that makes me remember my own feelings at that age, all security has been taken away for our young folk.

It’s alright to be not alright

We can look to trauma research to help us make sense of the reactions we may be having now. Do you know that saying you cope at the time and then you fall apart? That is simply because in times of heightened anxiety, we do tend to cope, we hunker down and get on with the job, we are kept busy in the cause, with an end to focus on. We are on “auto-pilot”. That is exactly the mind set we have all likely adopted, “getting through this and out the other side”. It is only when the threat passes, that we begin to make sense of what happened, the true extent of the danger we were in. An evaluation and analysis of the event occurs post event which really shows us the meaning of what has happened to us. The first lockdown brought solidarity in many ways, we clubbed together enjoying the benefits of being at home, clapping for the NHS, making sure the vulnerable in our streets got their shopping and feeling good about one another.  We were forced to think collectively as a group, we were social distancing, wearing masks, sanitising, staying indoors, all part of a collective group response to tackle COVID. Arguably a lesson learned in our increasingly individualistic society. There was a sense of buoyancy and “keep calm and carry on” were our mantras. Now as restrictions are eased we find ourselves facing the challenge of regaining confidence after lockdown. 

regaining confidence after lockdown - psychological adjustment
The psychological trauma of being isolated for such a prolonged period will take time to get over.

Psychological adjustment

The second lockdown became wearing, we had been here before and we listened to rumours of adjusting Christmas which loomed ominously. We had to let go of the virus being a one stop shop,  which is how we get through any normal trauma, it starts and it stops. We had to fully accept our lives had changed. The third lock-down brought a depressing reality, winter being the hardest months and with messages in the back ground that it would most likely go on until Easter really meant a long difficult realisation. A depression, a sinking feeling of helplessness, a psychological adjustment to the truth, much like adjusting to a difficult diagnosis, or to a death.

So when you wonder why you have covid exhaustion, remember back to what you have truly been through psychologically, the ups and downs you’ve had to adjust to, huge emotional trauma and facing your humanity and mortality on this planet. You’ve lived a piece of history!

Top tips for regaining confidence after lockdown:

  • Understand the conflict in your emotions, talk about it and really acknowledge the competing emotions: initial excitement, anxiety, wariness about being in public again, moral questioning (am I doing the right thing?), fear of it all going wrong in the background, we have now been conditioned to expect the worst, our experience of release from lockdown has been 100% a return to lockdown within months. This pattern will have settled into our mindsets and our memory won’t forget this.  
  • Respect – everyone is going through a different stage in their journey. Some may want to come out and play some may not. Take your time, emerge slowly and steadily – regaining confidence after lockdown is a process – you need not rush. Choose carefully the things you want to do, try them and review your feelings, how did that go? How does that feel? Do I want to do that again? Don’t overcommit. Be understanding if a friend or relative feels differently to you. They have different life experiences, histories, personalities and values which may all come to light in these stressful times. A bear doesn’t come out of hibernation the same weight he went to sleep a few months ago, nor does he head downtown for a pint! Slowly but surely.
  • Make a note of the things you realised in lockdown, your true values, the people you genuinely want to spend time with, the reasons you do what you do, what you really find important. It is the type of life review work I do with clients and the truth becomes oh so clear following trauma. You will actually see your purpose on this earth. I can help you step into it.   

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Last modified: April 27, 2021

Written by 2:20 pm Health