Understanding and overcoming post-lockdown anxiety
Many people may have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 lockdown. Similarly, coming out of lockdown may cause a person to have anxiety due to various uncertainties or concerns.
During lockdown, a person may have become used to not seeing other people, or staying indoors. A person may feel anxiety as COVID-19 restrictions lift and people begin to return to work, education, and social events.
Post-lockdown anxiety can lead to a person avoiding social gatherings, or becoming stressed about their health. However, there are techniques a person can use to overcome their post-lockdown anxiety.
Research from 2021 found that, out of people surveyed in the United States, 42% experienced anxiety during the initial lockdowns. Coming out of lockdown can also cause a person to experience different types of anxiety, including social or health anxiety.
Read on to learn more about the different types of post-lockdown anxiety, as well as methods to overcome them.
During lockdown, a person may have been unable to see their friends, family, or other people in person. People were also encouraged to stay away from others and maintain distance when outside.
A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) in March 2021 looked into how people felt about returning to in-person interactions. Researchers found that 57% of Black people felt uneasy about interacting in person again. Additionally, 51% of Hispanic people, 50% of Asian people, and 47% of white people also felt uneasy about in-person interactions.
A person with social anxiety may find that lockdown has affected their condition. Social anxiety is a form of anxiety that occurs when a person is worried about being judged or watched by others.
Initially, a person with social anxiety may be relieved not to have to interact with others. However, one treatment for social anxiety is exposure therapy, which relies on interactions with people. Without exposure therapy treatment, a person may find that their social anxiety has worsened as they come out of lockdown.
Social anxiety can lead to a person experiencing or doing the following when interacting with others:
- blushing, sweating, trembling, or having a feeling of their mind going blank
- rapid heart rate
- feeling nauseous
- feeling stiff
- avoiding eye contact
- speaking quietly
- finding it difficult to talk to other people, even if they want to
- feeling self-conscious, embarrassed, or awkward
- avoiding places with other people
- being afraid of judgement
Learn more about social anxiety disorder here.
Although COVID-19 restrictions are lifting in some states, new cases are still developing. After lockdown, a person may have worries about contracting COVID-19. Additionally, a person may be anxious about having it and passing it on to other people.
Health anxiety occurs if a person is constantly anxious about having, or developing, a certain illness, such as COVID-19. Symptoms of health anxiety can include:
- rapid heartbeat
- muscle tension
- tingling in the hands and feet
- pressure in the chest
- feeling on edge
Learn more about managing health anxiety and hypochondria around COVID-19 here.
Anxiety about leaving the house
At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined certain guidelines to help stop it from spreading. These guidelines included keeping 6 feet away from other people and avoiding crowds. Additionally, 42 states issued stay-at-home orders for varying periods of time in 2020.
A person with anxiety about leaving their house after lockdown may have various worries about going outside. A person may want to stay in their house to avoid interacting with other people. Additionally, a person may fear that by going out, they may expose themselves to COVID-19.
Having anxiety around leaving the house can be part of agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to panic when:
- being outside alone
- standing in line or being in a crowd
- in open spaces
- on public transport
- being in enclosed spaces, such as shops
A person with agoraphobia may experience panic attacks, or panic-like symptoms, such as:
- heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- feelings of choking
- feeling detached from reality
- fear of losing control or dying
- numbness or tingling
- chills or hot flashes
Learn more about coping with agoraphobia during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Many people will have become used to working online during lockdown. Going back to in-person workdays may result in anxiety for some people. For instance, a person may be anxious about traveling on a crowded train to go to work. Additionally, a person may feel that they no longer know how to deal with in-person customer interactions.
People who work in healthcare may have additional anxiety about working after lockdown. Research from 2021 found that healthcare workers were significantly more likely to experience anxiety during the initial lockdowns. Healthcare workers may experience anxiety due to high work levels and patient mortality rates.
When working, or thinking about work, a person may experience symptoms of anxiety such as:
- feelings of dread or apprehension
- feeling tense
- expecting the worst
- pounding heart
- shortness of breath
- frequent urination
Learn more about causes and coping techniques for anxiety here.
How to overcome post-lockdown anxiety
Adjusting to life after lockdown may be difficult, but there are various methods a person can use to ease these anxieties.
If someone is struggling due to changes in their mental health, they should contact a mental health professional to discuss treatment options. These may include talking therapy, often with techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Doctors may also recommend certain medications to help a person with anxiety.
Learn about mental health resources available here.
There are some other steps a person can take alongside or before seeking medical help. The following at-home techniques may help people overcome post-lockdown anxiety, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS):
Take things one step at a time
When dealing with post-lockdown anxiety, it is important that a person takes things slowly. Rushing back into past routines may lead to further anxiety or stress.
A person may want to try some of the following to ease themselves into post-lockdown life:
- taking a short walk outside
- meeting a friend in the garden or at park
- planning a small social event to build confidence around other people
- starting a journal to track thoughts and feelings around certain experiences
Get information from credible sources
It can be difficult to separate real COVID-19 information from fake information. A person may feel anxious if they feel confused or misinformed about COVID-19.
To reduce COVID-19 misinformation, a person should try and use trusted sources, such as the CDC or the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, if a person feels overwhelmed by the news, they should try and limit how much they consume.
Share feelings with others
Sharing feelings or anxieties with someone can help a person to work through certain issues. A person may find it helpful to talk about how they feel with a:
- family member
A person may also want to assert any boundaries they have after lockdown. A person might like some space, or may not want to shake hands. Each person’s individual post-lockdown boundaries are valid, and others should respect them.
Find routine where possible
Having a routine can be helpful when dealing with post-lockdown anxiety. A person may find that their daily routine became out of sync during lockdown. Simple changes, such as going to bed or having lunch at a set time, may help someone reduce anxiety symptoms.
Take time to relax
Although a person may find life becomes busy after lockdown, it is important to also have time to relax. Relaxation can help a person to de-stress and unwind. Certain relaxing activities can include:
- taking a walk in nature
- taking a bath
- listening to music
Learn more about stress management techniques here.
As COVID-19 restrictions lift, a person may experience post-lockdown anxieties. For example, a person may have anxiety about their health, being social, or going outside.
Readjusting to life after lockdown can be stressful. However, there are various ways a person can overcome their post-lockdown anxiety. Relaxation, routine, and taking things slowly can all help a person with post-lockdown anxiety.
If a person is concerned about their post-lockdown anxiety, they should speak to a healthcare professional.