How to overcome ‘Lockdown’ anxiety

Mental Health Awareness Week

Originally published on: May 16th, 2021. Last modified on September 1st, 2021

Today I did something that I was so proud of.  For me, it was a really big something – I went food shopping alone!

Food shopping!? I can hear some of you thinking what’s the big deal in that!? For me though, what is a normal daily task for most is something that has caused me crippling ‘lockdown’ anxiety and until today, I haven’t been able to do it.

I bet that some of you are also in my position.

After a year or so of shielding and being unable to leave the house due to Covid, you now feel unable to leave the house due to feeling too anxious to leave the house. It’s ok to feel like that though!

Mental Health Awareness Week
Of course, my cat had to get involved!

The possibility of being able to go and ‘do normal things’ around other people can feel a bit overwhelming, but whilst it’s ok to acknowledge those feelings, it’s also important to find ways to manage it so  that we can begin to enjoy the ‘new normal’, post lockdown life.

Everyone will find their own ways to cope with anxiety but the NHS have come up with a guide that is really useful to work through if you are finding that you are struggling with anxiety.

Recognise your symptoms…

Sometimes when your anxiety is starting to rise, you may not recognise your symptoms or it can be easy to ignore in your heightened state. It can be helpful to just stop, take stock and assess what is happening. Has your breathing quickened, if so acknowledge it and work on slowing your breathing to a normal pace. Other symptoms may be feeling hot or clammy, nauseous/ stomach ache, racing heart but it can help to know that it’s the anxiety causing this and that you’re going to be ok.

Don’t rush…

There’s no rush! It’s ok not to want to rush out the day the government guidelines allows us to. You are perfectly entitled to approach each step as and when you feel comfortable. It can help to explain to family and friends that you don’t feel ready just yet, so that you don’t feel pressured into something that you don’t feel comfortable to do.

Face the fear…

Avoiding certain situations may feel like the best short term solution for you but the longer you avoid something, the harder it becomes. If, for example, you are struggling to get to the supermarket; work on building up to it by walking to your local corner shop, then by accompanying someone else to the supermarket until you feel you are able to go alone. It just needs small steps until you reach your goal.

Stay informed…

By making sure that you understand what the current Covid guidelines are and that you take your information from reputable sources only such as the NHS or the government website. Avoid taking in ‘sensationalist’ media or ‘gossip’ to help you feel calm and in control.

Talk about it…

It’s important to keep talking to someone about how you’re feeling so that you don’t get overwhelmed or feel alone with your thoughts. Whether that be with a friend, relative or there are many online support groups or helplines available including the Bladder and Bowel Community Support Group. Here’s a link to one of our articles with a list of helplines.

Self care…

During lockdown, it has been too easy to think that we’re just at home so there’s no need to bother with our appearance, clothes or lose interest in hobbies and this can affect how we feel about ourselves over time. It can help to dedicate a day or even just an hour where you do something that is just for you, whether it is a beauty care regime, dress up in nicer clothes, do some exercise or an hour of your hobby. It really can make a difference.

Calm the brain…

Taking the time to meditate or practice mindfulness can help to calm an overactive brain. Using apps such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Mindfulness’ are useful to guide you through different types of  meditation depending on how your feeling or if you have a smart watch such as a Apple Watch, there is a function called ‘Breathe’, which just gives you 1 minute to take time to focus on your breathing. Mindfulness can take many different forms, it’s not just about closing your eyes and meditating, it can be anything that distracts you away from your worries such as a colouring book, a puzzle or reading.

Make plans…

It can help to make fun plans in advance and then you can put your coping strategies into place so that you feel able to attend your plans. Don’t forget though, if you still feel you’re not comfortable with being out, it’s ok to move those plans. Just make sure you keep talking to your friends and family so they know how you are feeling and can then help you to get back to enjoying life.

Remember that it is ok to admit that you’re struggling with your mental health. The last year or so has disrupted our lives in a way that we could have never imagined so it is perfectly normal to feel some trepidation into trying to return to our ‘normal’ lives. If you are feeling that your anxiety or depression is becoming out of your control, it is important to make an appointment with your GP to speak about it as there are therapies and medications available that can help you.