Coping with the new normal

With lockdown restrictions easing, the ‘new normal’ we are now entering may bring positive benefits for many but for others will create new anxieties and real fear over the prospect of stepping back into a very different version of everyday life.

Dr Sarita Robinson
Dr Sarita Robinson

Dr Sarita Robinson, principal lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire says lockdown easing could create fresh mental health issues for many people and provides some advice on reducing anxiety when people venture back out again for the first time.

Generally , she says, people have coped very well with the outbreak, but mental health may have been negatively impacted considering that the pandemic was unexpected and the UK had to impose restrictions not seen before most people's lifetimes.

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Sarita says: " We have seen lots of helpful and proactive behaviour, with people building a stronger sense of community, talking to their neighbours and delivering shopping to those who were shielding.

"People with pre-existing mental health conditions, those with caring responsibilities, members of the LGBT+ community and those facing domestic violence have been especially vulnerable during lockdown.

"During the national emergency it is really important to remember that it is OK not to be OK and we should watch out for each other and seek professional help if needed."

In some respects, the pandemic may have actually brought beneficial effects mentally for people who struggle with the hectic nature of normal everyday life with the relative calm and simplicity that lockdown has brought.

Adjusting to a the new normal will affect people in different ways and, she adds: " It was hard to get used to the lockdown measures when they came in. And now that it is easing, we are going to see a similar period of transition needed as we get used to the "new normal.

"It will be lovely to go out to the shops and to see friends and family (even if it does have to be at a distance).

"However, the mental load of having to get used to wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitiser and being careful not to get too close to others is going to be challenging and, in some cases, distressing for people."

But, , after a few weeks these new Covid-19 measures will become second nature to us, and we will get used to it.

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She adds: "It is important to remember that everyone has their own personal level of risk that they find acceptable. Some people are happy to ride motorbikes and go on rollercoasters. However, people who are more risk adverse may find it more difficult to be outside in the world after being at home during lockdown and may also find it much more anxiety inducing to return to work or engage in social activities, such as going to the pub, activities which they have previously enjoyed."

But, having having people around us who are being careful to social distance and who wear a mask can help some people feel safer.

Those who don't to go out should stay at home if it makes them feel better, but she warns, it is important to make sure that if children need to return to school anxious parents find out what measures are being put in place for their own peace of mind.

Another good method of reducing anxiety, she says, is to do a small trip out every day and build on that over a week. . Taking it slowly and building up your time outside the home over a number of days can help you get ready to return to work without becoming overwhelmed.

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Sarita advises : "Although it is still acceptable to stay home and not engaged in social activities once lockdown eases it is important to remember that Covid-19 is going to be here for many months. It is likely that some of us are are going to need to adjust so that we find a slightly higher level of risk acceptable."

If you are very anxious about heading out of the house and this is a barrier to living your life as you wish then you can seek professional support and talk over the issue.