Anxious about lockdown easing? Seven wellness experts share their top tips
By Liz Connor
While the gradual reduction of lockdown measures is, in many ways, a big relief, it’s also triggering a lot of anxiety for many people.
This might be the prospect of returning to your stressful, hectic pre-pandemic schedule, social anxiety creeping in, or worries about a second wave of the virus. Whatever the reason, it’s something lots of people are feeling.
So what can we do to help tackle our lockdown-easing anxiety? We asked a handful of wellbeing experts to share their top tips, as we prepare for the ‘new normal’…
1. Cara De Lange, burnout expert and founder of Softer Success
“Most of us have probably felt fear, anxiety and frustration over the past few months, and it’s easy to be dragged down by these emotions. Whenever I have been ‘challenged’ by working and homeschooling, I’ve used positive affirmations – statements that can help to overcome self-sabotaging thoughts.
“Every morning and evening, I block off time to write an affirmation in my gratitude journal. One tip is to write a positive ‘future’ script (of how your life might look three months down the line), which you can revert back to every day. Doing this has helped me through tough times and I’ll definitely continue to do it in the future.”
2. Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep therapist and expert for Silentnight
“Lots of people have been reporting sleep issues over lockdown, which can really take a knock on your mental health. We’re so used to living in a fast-paced world, where our minds are constantly overthinking and overloaded, that it can prevent us from switching off at night.
“One of the most powerful ways to get back on track with sleep is to spend more time in nature. I like to take part in grounding exercises; stand in the grass or the soil for a moment and take in the sights, sounds and smells around you – this has a profoundly mindful impact on our quality of sleep and how we feel the next day. Plus, it boosts hormones which makes us feel happy, creative and optimistic.”
3. Sana Khan, nutrition consultant and founder of Avicenna Wellbeing
“A tip that works for me personally, any time I’m feeling overloaded, is practising slow and restorative deep-breathing. I’ll usually do a set of breathing exercises throughout the day, in short bursts, to bring awareness and calmness to my mind and body – there are lots of apps and video tutorials online that can help to learn the correct toolkit. I’ll be the first to admit that my mood has fluctuated throughout lockdown, but focusing on ‘stillness’ and breathing has been the thing that’s helped me the most.”
4. Dr Hilary Jones, TV doctor speaking on behalf of Willerby
“Get out into the garden or a local park. There’s definitely a proven correlation between mental and physical wellbeing, so I would urge everyone to make your mental health a priority – by ploughing on, you will reach burnout and that can take much longer to come back from.
“Enjoying time outside in nature has lots of positive effects on our mental health and is fantastic for our physical health too. Whether you’re walking in the hills, pottering around your garden, exercising outdoors or being around animals, our mental health can improve when we connect with the outside world.”
5. Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist
“Hobbies are everything. Making time for activities that relax me and release feel-good hormones, like yoga, reading or cooking, has been key during this period.
“I’ve turned off news alerts on my phone and reduced my time on social media, and instead I’ve prioritised self-care activities, like eating well, exercising and virtual socialising.
“Gradually planning nice things to do in the future has really helped to put me in a positive mindset. The fact that I can now see my family is really anxiety-busting for me too.”
6. Aimee Victoria Long, personal trainer
“My tip for personally dealing with anxiety during uncertain periods is to keep a structure to each day, especially if everything else feels uncertain. Getting up at a set time, completing daily tasks, and ensuring we aren’t going to bed super-late is really important.
“Plus, I recommend reducing the amount of time you spend on social media, especially before going to bed. If you’re worried about post-lockdown life, it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing other people seemingly coping, and thinking that nobody else is in the same boat. In reality, we are only ever given the smallest window into people’s lives online, and one that’s usually filtered.”
7. Kathryn Pinkham, NHS insomnia specialist and founder of The Insomnia Clinic
“Journaling your worries is a really good way to release the tension. Anxiety feeds on uncertainty and lack of control, but there are healthy ways you can ‘control’ your worry.
“Every day, I allocate a 20-minute window to write down everything I’m worried about. This is a great way of telling your mind that you’re not ignoring your worries, however silly you may think they are, but rather you’re acknowledging them at a time that is suitable for you.
“I always use a pen and paper, as I think this is a much more effective way to ‘empty’ your mind than using a digital device. Once my journaling time is up, I move on, and do something I enjoy. If any thoughts or worries pop up, I simply make a note of them and then allow myself to think about them in detail during my allocated time later on.
“I’d urge everyone that’s feeling mentally overloaded with changes to lockdown rules to try this technique; it’ll teach your mind to be more proactive about when you worry, so the worries are not constantly intruding.”