Will going out today bring you fear or freedom?
This weekend, I had an interesting experience watching the British Grand Prix, and it wasn’t because of the crash (though that was horrible to watch). It was because I was looking at a crowd of 140,000 people all together, not wearing masks. All part of the governments Event Research Programme, I realised in that moment, how anxious seeing such a large group of people, as making me.
"But we've got to do it cautiously. We've got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there. Cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant." Boris Johnson
I hadn’t really considered up until that moment, just how anxious I was feeling about lockdown restrictions continuing to ease and our social lives returning to (almost) their pre-covid ways, the world is beginning to look a little more ‘normal’ (whatever that is) every day. Today, is no longer being called ‘Freedom Day’ in the way it once was, the tone is much more cautious. But officially the one-metre social distancing rule and the working from home order is gone, and mask-wearing will no longer be compulsory.
The onus has shifted to us, the public to “exercise judgement” with no more legally imposed restrictions being placed on. However, we are being encouraged to exercise caution in doing so, as the numbers of cases enter dizzying heights, but the lower hospital admissions rates are exemplified. It is a little confusing at times. In that moment, watching Silverstone, I realised that some of my anxiety is around how my judgement will be different than other people’s. It can be hard to recognise that other people may view situations differently or have different comfort zones than you. It can be easy to end up assuming everyone thinks and feels the same as you. But sometimes you need to remember that they do not and that is ok!
There are a lot of reasons why people might be feeling anxious at the moment. Some people worry about catching Covid, or passing it on to someone else. For others crowds and hugging might have been an anxiety trigger before Covid, and now that is amplified. Others may not be able to pinpoint exactly what they’re worried about. And, for some they feel jubilant which leaves those of us feeling anxious feeling as though it could be taboo to talk about how we are feeling. After so long reading devastating and terrifying headlines though, it is perfectly understandable to feel anxious or uncertain right now.
The important thing is to have an awareness of how we are feeling. Other things that might help:
List what you are and are not ready for
At this point, I mean list it for yourself. Have that awareness of what triggers your anxiety more than something else. We all have different risk tolerance levels, so spend some time working out what yours are. You need to personalise this situation for you, only you know the state of your general health, of those you frequently come in contact with. Whether you are fully vaccinated, and what the Covid cases are like in your area.
All of this should help you work out what you are ready for, and what you might need to feel more ready.
Have a honest conversation with those around you
An open conversation about what your experience is like, helps make it clear to those closest to you about what your risk tolerance level is. It might be different to theirs but if you frame it from your feelings and your perspective it should help make it clearer to them, what your boundaries are and how to respect and support you with them.
Also, make an effort to ask others how they are feeling and putting no shame on whatever restrictions we all need to feel comfortable.
Take small steps not no steps
One of the best ways to overcome anxiety is to have experiences that test out our fears and help us realise it might not be as bad as our worry. However, this isn’t an all or nothing approach, for me that would mean not going to Silverstone for the weekend! Set small steps and achievable goals, over a set time frame. Perhaps that’s the whole of summer, maybe it’s the rest July. Build up slowly, and set priorities.
Think about what the most important thing for you to achieve and do is, how can you make the most of this time? When you feel anxious think, what can I do that would make me feel able to do something? Is it meeting only outdoors right now? Or continuing to wear your mask? Not eating in restaurants but inviting people to your house? Control what you can, begin to do things in a way that feels safe to you.
Be aware of how you’re feeling
I keep saying this, but look out for other tell tale signs that you’re feeling anxious. Are you more irritable? Sleeping less? More tearful? Or have physical symptoms like stomach upset? It can look different at different times.
Remember, that the world as a whole has been through something unprecedented, so some of these feelings are normal. But, if you really are starting to feel like the anxiety about the end of restrictions and a return to ‘normal life’ is interfering with the way you want to live your life, then don’t be afraid to seek out help. Whether that is through talking more to your friends, talking to your GP, or seeking counselling. You don’t have to be alone in this.
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