Unprecedented Times: the ongoing mascot for shared anxiety
It may be inconsiderate to say that we’re currently all in the same boat, as some people are more vulnerable, both when it comes to our susceptibility to the virus, and our mental health; people may not be able to pass the time with the same luxuries as others. But, it is fair to say we’re all in the same ocean dealing with the same tidal wave, and we are beginning to go past the proverbial wave. We are not too far away to at last leave our boats and jump to land and life will return to normal – or will it not be that easy?
With more and more redundancies being announced daily and our arts, theatre and music industries on the brink of collapse, having the freedom to leave our homes and resume our normal lives is a source of dread rather than a joyous release from lockdown.
The common desire of every person is to get back to ‘normality’, but there may be new issues that could cause problems that we’re not aware of yet.
Institutionalisation v Freedom
Institutionalisation is a phenomenon that affects prisoners and hospital patients, where if you spend enough time in a controlled environment you can lack independence and freedom you get used to losing your own autonomy and feel you may prefer living without. This has caused people to suffer with anxiety when they leave their institutions and to become members of society.
It may seem like an exaggeration to claim that this is applicable to our situation but that doesn’t mean similar symptoms won’t arise. We have been effectively locked in our homes for about 3 months. Most of us no longer working, no longer socialising, going without seeing family members for months, no doubt anxieties will come to many of us when restrictions are softened.
Maybe Dogs have got it right!
Even with the current freedom we do have to be able to do a weekly shop, it has been a scary moment for many, the idea of being in the supermarket with brand new social norms is a scary one, this with no fear of getting the virus, but just being in public again. And the fear of using new alien rules such as keeping distance, following the arrows and keeping your hands away from groceries unless you have the intention of buying.
Keeping anxiety at bay
So how do we keep from those anxieties getting from the best of us? The best answer is moderation. If lockdown is lifted tomorrow, going back to work to see your coworkers, then your family members, followed by your mates at the pub could be overwhelming to put it lightly, although
I’m under no illusions a grand piss up will be on many people’s priorities the moment it is safe to do so. It’s still important to remember when too much is too much.
My sister, Emily, told me a story of her housemate Harriet suddenly feeling a temperature and believing she had caught CoronaVirus, what that housemate hadn’t considered was that she was in the kitchen whilst Emily had been cooking her tea hence the sudden rise in temperature.
Germaphobia is something that many of us will have already gained, when doing the weekly shop it’s hard not to wonder how close you are to being in contact with the virus. This can cause a feeling where we think we are getting ill but that feeling entirely exists within our own head. It’s another sort of anxiety that many will have already felt strongly, there’s no doubt that when doing the weekly shop there’s a more tense demeanor, this can make the sight of the exceedingly relaxed shopper trigger a feeling of fright or tension.
It’s important that we acknowledge these emotions, even if you don’t feel them at all but understand they will exist in someone else, but it’s also important not to let the angst takeover and become beholden to it.
Stressors are normal, and lockdown will have given many of us a stronger feeling of anxiety. It’s normal – you won’t be the only one, and just like the pandemic, we will get past it.
- If you haven’t connected with nature and animals during lockdown, well quite frankly you should have. If however, like most of us you have marvelled at flowers growing, birds singing and the beauty in nature – keep it up.
- Don’t do too much too soon. Plan visits and get togethers, space them out over a few days or even a couple of weeks.
- Remember the times during lockdown that you may have enjoyed: going for walks, enjoying nature, spending time at home with loved ones, finally sorting out ‘that’ cupboard.
- Don’t be tempted top go back to normal, really think if going back to it is what you want. Many people have taken this time to re assess their lives and consider doing things differently.
- Listen to your favourite piece of music or artist, or read a book that inspires you: it really does make a difference to your frame of mind and outlook.
- Talk. if you feel overwhelmed and a bit lost their are lots or resources and charities that can help. Everyone is pretty much going through the same, so you are not alone.
Don’t forget to take a deep breath, put on some uplifting music and dance – works for me!
Words: Thomas Maddocks