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“I’m scared of relaxing restrictions!”: Protecting our mental health while the world changes yet again

Community Manager

The dumpster fire that is the COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on all of us – for so many reasons.

 

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But after the initial shock of being ‘locked down’ turned into our ‘new normal’, some of us might be surprised to find that the easing restrictions feel like a whole new thing to be afraid of. We thought we’d be running towards the metaphorical light at the end of a socially distanced tunnel, but instead we find ourselves approaching with caution.


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When the pandemic first hit, our mental health might have taken a beating – particularly those of us already living with complex mental health issues. Symptoms and vulnerabilities may have flared up, as key parts of the recovery we’d built for ourselves were suddenly out-of-bounds. And we may have found ourselves longing for things to go back to 'normal'.

 

But now that restrictions are actually easing? It might surprise us that we're not feeling as excited as we thought. Yes, the chance to finally see a close friend might fill us with joy – of course it does! But the thought of venturing out into the world again? That can feel scary!

 

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After the initial shock wore off, some of us found that we actually got used to being holed up at home. We found new ways of spending our time, reassessed what was important to us, and found safety in our little cocoons. Transitioning back into society can feel like a huge change all over again, and this can throw us off-kilter.

 

So, whether we're nervous about the coronavirus itself, reluctant to change routine AGAIN, or struggling in some other way – how can we look after our mental health as restrictions ease?

 

Firstly, we can be kind to ourselves. As with the beginning of the pandemic, none of us know exactly how to cope with this next transition. It's new to all of us. There's nothing 'wrong' with us if we're feeling anxious at this time – it's completely normal when going through a big change.

 

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Secondly, we can remember that talking to friends, family or mental health professionals can help us keep perspective and meet our basic needs for connection and belonging.

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And thirdly? It's ok to be cautious and take things slow. If we don't feel comfortable having visitors to our home yet – we don't have to! If we'd still rather shop online than go to the supermarket, that's ok too. Introducing one new element to our routine at a time can help us move at a pace that suits us.

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It's also worthwhile to check in on the people we love. Being there for someone else can give us purpose. If someone in our life is an essential worker, has lost their job or has been struggling with home-schooling children, we can reach out and offer support.

 

Those of us who have faced mental health challenges before COVID-19 may have already developed really great strategies to cope with tough times.

 

We are strong. We are resilient. And we will get through this – one day at a time.


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Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below. How are you feeling about the easing restrictions, and what are you doing to cope?

12 Comments
Community Guide

I confess I am quite nervous about restrictions being eased. I am an "at risk" person...plus I'm worried about a second wave of Covid-19. 

 

A couple of different friends have contacted me in the last week, wanting to meet up for coffee or lunch. Although I want to see these friends, my first gut reaction was a shocked "It's too soon! I'm not ready!". I had to take some time to think things through before replying. These friends don't have my illnesses of germophobia and agoraphobia. They know I have both illnesses, and are supportive - but they don't "get it", and why should they? So I feel they would be hurt or offended, deep down, if I tell them I'm not ready to meet up yet.

 

Also, my agoraphobia and germophobia have both got worse during lockdown, so I can attribute my gut reaction to these illnesses. I will have to come out of isolation at some point, so why not now? Covid-19 is in the world now and won't go away entirely, presumably. I can't stay the rest of my life safely at home.

 

So I've agreed to meet these kind friends on different occasions in the next 2 weeks, and have started psyching up now. It will be hard for me to leave the house, and very stressful to cope with the possibility of germs - 2 of these friends work on the front line. But at least one of these lovely friends needs support, so that will be good to be able to give it if possible.

Community Guide

Before the lockdown kicked in and social distancing reduced the amount of time spent outside, I certainly found it hard.

 

Like a lot of things in life that are new, it took some time to adjust to the changes. 

 

However, even when I adapted I found that I missed catching up with friends, having  coffee out, going to the gym etc. Things like this were part of my life and wellness. 

 

But I must admit that I've adjusted to this change and will find it hard to adapt again.

 

The best approach I think will be to remember how things were before the covid19 lockdown and also view things in a positive, open manner.

 

It's a good thing that we are going back to the way things were - even if it's a marginal change. 

 

We are in together and we are here for each other 

Community Guide

interesting @nashy 

Hello @Hamsolo01@NatureLover@Tortoiseshell@Jupiter 

 

amm For me , I am starting to feel strange going and doing things apart from supporting my husband and my mum 

in our work ( we are self employed) and when  we clean people houses or mow their lawns no-one is at home 

I suppose I should try to fit in more ME time 

 

as for my Mum , she now and wont leave the house , I do everything for her ( shopping , etc, etc )

 

and as for my husband , he loves being home 

he does not want to go anywhere apart from doing our jobs and going back home 

anything that needs to be done in town , he sits in the car waiting for me 

but he does help me with the shopping which is good if we are quick 

Community Guide

@nashy @Shaz51 @Hamsolo01 @NatureLover 


Easing restrictions for COVID-19 is going to create some nervousness and anxiety as it is yet another change in such a short space of time. Even though it has only been 3 months we have been through quite a lot of change in our lives.

 

Change causes disruption to our routine and its routine that we rely on to stay well. Another change to our routine means some instability for a time. 

I have to say I have only gone as far as my local small business to grab some groceries, medical needs and other essential shopping and exercise. I have gotten use to staying at home. As they say it's one small step...

 

Take it day by day in extending yourself with the relax of restrictions. Just because you can, do what feels comfortable for you. It might be starting off with take away coffee and a walk to the local park either by yourself or with a friend (with 1.5 metre distancing) and then if you feel comfortable to take the next step after that to go to a cafe try and see how you feel.

 

There is also the option to do a virtual coffee date. Go online with zoom and you and a friend can have a coffee or tea and chat over zoom in the comfort of your pyjamas and home.

 

For me Zoom coffee dates and family catch up means I can still stay connect without been any risk.

 

See what works for you, be creative and take it step by step.

Community Guide

 

@nashy  @Hamsolo01@NatureLover@Tortoiseshell@Jupiter @Shaz51 

 

For me not a lot has changed day with covid.  Fortunately my for sons and and families they are all still working. I have not been able to write in cafes and continue my return to the music scene. My major negative. For many on the sane site the home situation with  new concentrated family dynamics and financial stress must be horrible. My partner and I have started to see our grandchildren again which is fantastic and joyous. The numbers attending my mental health outpatients program is down by two thirds. The changes are small and are everywhere. It is this that I find very difficult. Everything it seems is different. Shopping, seeing my shrink/ gp / ptsd psych / cafes/ deliveries / seeing family / sport / music gigs/ possible bands to play in. This is not helpful as I'm working on a new way of being. These myriad changes are what i find difficult.

WriterMelb

Community Guide

Hi @nashy @WriterMelb @jem80 @Shaz51 @Hamsolo01 @NatureLover 

I'm finding the easing of restrictions difficult as I live in Melbourne and the restrictions have been quite harsh when compared to the other states and territories of Australia. There have been certain places that I won't visit because of them being testing sites for covid and I'm really missing the libraries not being open as I used to love going there to read and chill out. I'm not enjoying not being able to sit and have coffee and cake with friends in a cafe or just being able to sit at the park or beach to get in some nature time. I've also developed anxiety about going into supermarkets because of not being able to get the items I usually would due to panic buying in recent months which never used to be an issue for me until covid happened. I'm also scared that the premier of my state could reinstate restrictions at any time because he wants to. It's hard for me and it's scary to be honest.

I'm coping with this by writing in my journal and by being creative like knitting and drawing. 

Contributor

thanks for this @nashy  I am trying to negotiate with my employer to return to the office only part-time and continue working from home 2 days per week. Going back full-time feels overwhelming for me. Small steps..

Contributor

Hey, My metal health issues have increased during this time. 

I only had slight germophobia before this, slight OCD, depression,  CPTSD and social anxiety.  Now, fear I is keeping me at home. I have been out twice in 15 weeks. Once with a friend,  on my terms, at nighttime and we met in the middle of a soccer field last week. The second time my husband took me shopping, No one was keeping social distancing in the one shop we went to, and I had words with a few people before I tuned everything out and ended up sitting in the car in fear. . An hour later and finally home I was a mess. But over three years I have become very adept at hiding all this from my husband and he knows very little of what is going on in my head and body in these situations. 

I have been having my 2 weekly appointments with my psychologist over the phone. This week we are meeting in the carpark, that was my terms when he suggested we have a face to face appointment.  But I so want to cancel. Fear that I thought I could deal with by a few trips out, has only increased.  Everyone is saying 'you need to get out' 'do this, do that' But I have been at home and living in my head for so long that all those fears I had before, have increased in intensity so much, I am worried that life will never be the same again.  

Community Manager

Hi @Moochmouse thanks so much for sharing your story. I definitely relate to the feeling of wondering if life will be the same again. We will return to some level of normality and rhythm no doubt, but I suppose our awareness of things will change and maybe even our views around mental health as a broader society off the back of the pandemic. I thank you for sharing this, sounds like it's been a pretty hard road but we're all here to listen and support you in our online forums. 

 

@Molliex Small steps is integral right now! Keep us updated on how it goes and how the incramental changes feel Smiley Happy 

 

@Judi9877 Thank you for sharing, I am sorry it's been such a heavy journey. Journalling is a wonderful tool! As is anything where you can use your hands. I have been considering pottery, something to engage the mind and soul in a focused way. Knitting and drawing sounds wonderful, how do you feel during that process?

Contributor

Im just going to winge, got the Seasonaly Affective Disorder , feel like crap. Feeling so irritable. Dont like long letters, dont like the new format. Memory is shot.   I will come back in a week or 2 when I feel more human.  Sorry   jay2

New Contributor

It's a comfort reading this & that my family aren't alone.  My teenager has a chronic disease and is on biologic & immunosuppressant medications.  On top of that a year ago I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.  I thought I had pneumonia but the doctor thought pulmonary embolism.  It was neither.  It was Influenza A even though I was up to date with the flu shot.  Only after that did I chat to many other healthy younger people who'd been hospitalised at some time with flu.
 So when people belittled COVID-19 off as "no worse than the flu in most cases" I panicked.

My daughter dropped out of school.  She'd missed quite a lot of school because of her condition and wasn't interested in catching up and sitting HSC.  Her Year 12 friends were still finding ways to party even when lockdown was enforced.

my husband and I work from home.  Our 19 year old daughter was "between things" & battling mental health issues leading up to lockdown.

We are a family of anxious introverts and we all discovered we loved the slower pace, being together, finding ways to occupy ourselves.  My daughter's are musicians and threw themselves into songwriting.  I'm an artist and painted.  Everyday I'd walk the dogs and then we'd busy ourselves at home.  Every evening I speak to my 85 year old Dad in London and I hAve spoken to friends overseas on WhatsApp who I haven't chatted to for years.  In this quiet space all our mental health issues have diminished and we have been a very happy family.

Suddenly it's all about to change.  My daughter's friends went protesting on Saturday, out for coffee on Sunday, partying on Monday, back to school on Tuesday.  We don't believe there won't be a second wave at this rate.

It seems like the whole country is celebrating the end of the war when the war isn't over in my family's mind. 
I anticipated we would eventually emerge from the other side of the lockdown.  Maybe September, at best July.  I thought the easing of restrictions would be very slow and cautious.  It's all happening too fast.

This week we've been invited around to people for afternoon teas & dinner parties.  I don't know why.  It's like they feel we need to celebrate some kind of liberation.  It's very difficult to say no.  It's also very difficult to know what the right thing to do is when a family member is immunocompromised.  No one tells you.  
I was mentally doing great going into lockdown.  I'm not doing so great now.  I'm giving it to the end of winter but there's so much pressure.  It's just comforting to know others feel the way my family does

Community Manager

"I was mentally doing great going into lockdown.  I'm not doing so great now.  I'm giving it to the end of winter but there's so much pressure.  It's just comforting to know others feel the way my family does" @Olva Thank you for being so real and honest about your journey.  I am sorry to hear how painful the experience has been and certainly much of your post is understandable. You are very welcome to share your story here in our forums, and many of our community members can provide help and support. You're not alone in this and we are here to listen Heart