It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 10 May to Sunday 16 May 2021) so I thought I would write a post for those experiencing anxiety about all the changes happening lately.
After over a year of social distancing and lockdowns, people have come down with a case of cabin fever and have been sitting in freezing pub gardens in their desperation for social contact. They want to celebrate birthdays, get hair cuts and just be “normal”.
I am a huge introvert so I’m not rushing to be outside with everyone, I’m quite happy staying home with my cat. I have enjoyed this slower pace of life and it’s become my new normal. Now don’t get me wrong I’m still going out to get food and seeing friends a little but I’m not out every day or dying to be in big crowds. Hard pass! I’ll keep enjoying my blissful solitude at home thanks.
If you’re the same and have adjusted to this new normal that offered respite from crowded public transport & endless social engagements then these tips are for you.
Take it slow
Lockdown measures are relaxing more each week and some of you might be feeling anxious or not quite ready to rejoin the world just yet, and that’s ok! Don’t rush yourself and remember everyone goes at their own pace.
It’s up to you what your transition from lockdown looks like. Take small steps rather than large, sudden changes. You can add people and things back into your daily life at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
This isn’t over yet. Social distancing and rules are still in place to protect us. The vaccine is being rolled out, and yes lockdown restrictions are easing, but we still need to maintain some of these measures to stop the virus from spreading.
Going back to work
You may be looking forward to this, but for some, this may cause extreme anxiety, especially if you’ve been working from home for a long period of time.
Some people will be going back to work gradually or still working from home so it won’t be business as usual for everyone. You could see if your workplace will let you start off coming back for a few days a week to begin with so it doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming and you can get back in the swing of things. If getting public transport concerns you, you could travel outside of peak times? Or you could cycle, walk or drive.
If you want a face mask exemption card, the UK government has cards you can print or display on your smartphone.
Your employer should have made changes at your workplace to ensure it is ‘Covid-secure’. If you have any concerns about your health and safety at work, you can speak to your workplace union, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local authority. The HSE has guidance for employers that may also be useful for people thinking about returning to the workplace.
*The government guidance doesn’t suggest that you wait until you get the vaccine to return to work. Many people who have had the vaccine are still waiting for a second dose, some early studies of the Oxford/ AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccines have shown they are working well to protect people after the first dose. It is still important for everyone to follow all the guidelines and to get the second dose for long-term protection.
What support is there if I can’t work?
The government has extended the furlough scheme across the UK until end of September 2021. Your employer can take advantage of this to keep you on as an employee while the government subsidises a proportion of your salary.
If you’re not able to work because of coronavirus, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit. If you’re self-employed, the government has outlined the support that is available to you.
- Read the government’s work and financial support information.
- For mental health support (see the numbers and contacts below)
I have to go to work and I might have coronavirus – how do I get a test?
Anyone in England, Northern Ireland and Wales who has symptoms of coronavirus can apply for a test on the NHS website or call 119 if you can’t get online. If you’re in Scotland, book a test through NHS Inform or call 0800 028 2816 if you can’t get online.
If you are an essential worker, or you live with one, you can apply for a priority test.
Seeing friends & family
Many friends and family members have stayed apart during lockdown. Seeing your loved ones face to face might feel strange at first. If it’s been a while since you met other people, try having a trial run with one person to build up your confidence and see how it feels.
Try these simple steps to keep the risk of infection as low as possible:
- Meet outdoors in open spaces rather than crowded areas– it’s less likely that the virus will spread this way.
- Follow all the social distancing advice for the area you live in.
- Limit the number of people you meet – try not to socialise more than once a day.
- Wash your hands before and after meeting someone.
- Don’t share items like cutlery or food if you’re eating together.
Going to pubs and restaurants
If you don’t feel ready yet to meet family or friends in a pub or restaurant, give yourself some time to get used to going out again to socialise. Try going out for a short walk outside or a quiet meal with one person, before going out with a big group. In the meantime, you can keep in touch online or by phone.
If you want to go out however, follow these steps to help reduce your risk of catching the virus:
- Go at a quieter time, like a weekday instead of at the weekend.
- Sit outside
- Use hand sanitiser
- Use contactless instead of cash.
Which ever camp you land in it’s ok and I wanted to let you know you’re not alone. If you are worried about your mental health, feeling low in mood, anxious or depressed, or unable to cope there’s plenty of support out there for you.
- Speak to your GP – Your GP is there to support you with your mental health. They can recommend the right treatment, and refer you to other services if needed.
- Call Anxiety UK – 08444 775774 (open 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday – Friday)
- Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or email
- Visit the NHS mental health information hub
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I hope you enjoyed this post.
Have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!