It’s time to get back out!
Below, our Regional Marketing Manager, Charlotte, talks about her own experiences of anxiety and her top tips for getting yourself back out into the community.
Are you anxious about going back out again with all the changes that have been announced since the easing of lockdown? Does it worry you that not everyone is wearing a mask these days? If you’re nodding your head, then you are not alone, and it is perfectly normal to have these feelings.
Whether experiencing feelings of anxiety is new to you or not, it’s important to remind yourself of the key things that can help ease these feelings. Personally, my anxiety heightened during lockdown, even with having my pooch at home – so when it came to going back out, I had to come up with some new coping mechanisms.
Here are my top 10 tips to help you get back out in your community and find new ways of navigating this ‘new normal’.
- Slow and steady wins the race
With so many changes and new ways of living, it’s important to move at a pace that works for you. Anxiety can impact individuals in different ways, and you may find dealing with change harder than others, so it is important not to push yourself too hard. It can be difficult to say no when everyone else is getting back to normal, but if you’re not ready for a big group meet up then that’s ok too. I’m not quite ready for indoor gym classes yet or big indoor events, but I know that’s ok because I’m working towards this by going at my own pace.
- Set yourself goals – that work for YOU
Going at your own speed is important, but if you are struggling to get to that next step it might help to set yourself some realistic goals. When the rules first changed, I was apprehensive about having lots of people in my home and having a close extended family didn’t make things any easier. So, I broke it down into small social events – which I was comfortable with at the time and built this up. Now I can’t get enough of hosting my family and friends at home!
What would you like to be able to do? Is there a big event coming up you’d like to feel more comfortable at? Think about what matters to you and how you can achieve it – is there someone in your family or a close friend that can help you with the goal?
- Comfort is Key
Just because everyone else is out for dinner every week, or back at the gym, that doesn’t mean you have to be. Even the most sociable people are now struggling with day-to-day activities, myself included. I’m a very sociable person but when it came to going back out, I was anxious about being around lots of people – I never thought that would happen, however I got too comfortable being at home in my safe bubble.
What are you comfortable with? Doing something you are not comfortable with will only increase your anxiety levels and have a damaging effect on your mental wellbeing. So, it’s important to set those goals, move at your own pace and don’t be ashamed to say “no, I’m not quite ready for that”.
- Where to go first?
If you’ve decided to go out for food and drinks with friends or family but you’re still feeling anxious, arrange to go on a weekday (if you can) when it’s likely to be quieter. If it’s a nice day you can sit outside, I know this makes me feel more relaxed. Plus, don’t forget most places you can pay contactless now – so no need for entering pin numbers or exchanging notes.
Need to go food shopping? Again, when is it quiet? Maybe in the middle of the day when most people are working or late at night. I’m sure there’s some 10pm shoppers out there! Don’t forget to wear your mask – most supermarkets request you still wear a mask, plus it might make you feel safer. If you’re not ready for the supermarket, maybe start with your local convenience store or chemist to pick up some medication.
- We are creatures of habit!
Let’s face it, everyone’s daily routines were thrown into chaos when lockdown hit us in 2020 – new routines were created; daily online PE lessons for children, Friday night quizzes on Zoom, not getting dressed for work and much more. It’s now time to break some of these habits and create some new routines, for our ‘new normal’ – or bring back some of the old ones!
The biggest routine change for me was getting my Cavapoo dog used to me going back out; often people forget – our pets have got used to a lot of us being at home for over a year. For me, it was important to create a new routine where Poppy got used to me going back out and learnt how to be on her own again without getting separation anxiety. It also gave me the opportunity to get back into a routine of leaving the house on time, rather than just sitting at my desk!
- Let’s TALK!
It’s important not to keep all those feelings bottled up, I’m a real chatter so this one isn’t an issue for me! Make sure you pick up the phone or video chat with a friend, or join some local community groups – whether that’s a walking club or just a coffee morning.
Don’t forget that Heads Together (an initiative by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) has some great resources and has a range of charity partners, including Mind that you can get in touch with. Find out more here: https://www.headstogether.org.uk/get-support/
- Don’t believe everything you read
I’m sure we all read information online where we’ve thought “Is that true?” There’s a lot of information out there on the big wide web that is just to cause scaremongering, so be careful which sources you trust. If like me, you’re keen to keep on top of the latest advice, my go to webpage is https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus which explains all the latest guidance on staying safe or visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ for the latest advice on testing, symptoms and getting vaccinated. By understanding the current guidelines and keeping up to date with the changes, you’ll likely feel more confident that you know what you can and can’t do. Not knowing, or getting conflicting information increases my feeling of anxiety, so I find it best to stick to just a couple of reliable sources.
- Take back control
Are you stressing over things that you actually have no control over? If so, I completely understand how you feel! This is a biggie for me, as naturally anxiety causes us to worry about all the things we cannot control, and at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic many of us felt isolated and lonely. It is important we are kind to ourselves and try and change focus, divert your time and energy on the things you can impact. For example, during lockdown I spent lots of time baking and teaching my new dog new tricks!
Looking after yourself is key when it comes to managing your anxiety, both physically and mentally. It’s important to try and include some physical activity into your daily routine, whether that’s taking your dog out for a walk, joining the gym or even a local Yoga class. I know I often feel much better after having a bit of fresh air, but don’t forget that eating well and sleeping well are just as important. It’s important to find something that works for you and fits into your routine, so why not set yourself a goal? I walk my dog every day, but I am also trying to take more breaks throughout the day.
- Keep a diary
My final tip is to keep a diary (or at least a notepad next to your bed), so you can write down your thoughts and feelings as they come to you at night and see if there are any patterns or key things triggering your anxiety. If you’re like me, my mind goes into overdrive at night, so I like to have something near me where I can write down what’s bothering me. Don’t forget to also write down what’s gone well each day, what made you happy? Celebrate the positives and have these to reflect on, if you’ve had a bad day.
Some of these tips may seem obvious, but sometimes when anxiety takes over it can be hard to figure out what the first step is – but by following these steps it can allow you to regain control of the situation. Have you got some of your own coping mechanisms I haven’t mentioned? Don’t forget to share them with us.
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