Creative Counselling: Coming Out Of Lockdown Calmly
In this month’s Creative Counselling, Marie Bruce offer tips on coping with stress as lockdown begins to ease
After a year or more of restrictions, there may be some feelings of trepidation as we begin to crawl out of lock-down. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, you might feel fuzzy headed at the possibility of this new-found freedom. You might even be fearful of it. Months of being cooped up in our own homes has produced a society of semi-agoraphobic people. You might be looking forward to going out more, but at the same time, be more fearful of being in crowded places than you were before the pandemic. This is quite natural, and like a prisoner coming out of jail, there will need to be an adjustment period. Here are some tips for coping with the end (we hope!) of lock-down.
Take it slow. You don’t have to go to the pub, the sea-side and the shopping centre all in one weekend. Plan your time and allow yourself bite-sized chunks of greater freedom. Do something local and close to your home, before you go any further afield. That way, if the crowds become too much for you, you can make a quick escape back to base.
I know it can be difficult, but obsessing over the risks will only increase your anxiety and prevent you from enjoying any new freedoms. Take the proper precautions and there should be no reason why you can’t enjoy a glass of wine with a friend at the local pub, or in your garden. A walk in the park might ease you into being social again, with the added advantage that there is more space for you to keep your distance from others.
You might have only driven your car to the local shops and petrol station for the past year, so ease yourself back into driving before you undertake a long journey. Remember that there is likely to be more traffic on the roads than there has been, so allow extra time for your journeys. If you haven’t been driving at all, start by taking the car around the block to get a feel for being back in the driver’s seat and gradually increase the length of your journeys.
Coming out of lock-down can be a scary prospect, so think about what worries you most and gently expose yourself to more of it. This type of exposure therapy is common practice in counselling sessions that deal with phobias and it works to gradually desensitize the client to the fear surrounding the phobic trigger. So if large crowds are worrying you, gradually expose yourself to more public places. Maybe start with a library, as this environment is naturally quiet and peaceful. Then build up to bigger shops and city centres, before trying a trip out to the coast. In this way you build up a gradual resilience and become more tolerant of the crowds and less likely to be triggered by them.
Do What You Love
Remember the things you used to enjoy, before Covid was even a thing? Try doing them again. Book a riding lesson, or go ice-skating, or to the gym. Now that some leisure centres are allowed to open again, book yourself in for a quick lesson and get back in the saddle, so to speak. This will give you something to look forward to, a taste of your old life, and will be an incentive to get you out and about again, living a more normal life.
Pamper yourself! Buy a new outfit for your first big day out. Get your hair done, or your nails – or both. Splash out on looking good and you will feel better about being seen in public. It’s finally time to ditch the lounge wear and put on a nice outfit, so make the most of it. Pretend you are dating Life – because that is exactly what we are all going to be doing!
It’s Okay to Retreat
If it all begins to get too much, it’s fine to go home and try again another day. The world isn’t going anywhere. Just take it one small step at a time and eventually you will be living more of the life you used to love.
Stay safe and well.
About the author:
Marie Bruce Dip. T.C. MBACP is a qualified psychotherapist, Cruse Bereavement Counsellor and best-selling self-help author. She specialises in grief and loss counselling, PTSD and military counselling, and life coaching.
In this monthly column, Marie offers simple tools used by therapists to help clients and readers improve their mental well-being.
Marie’s books are available on Amazon UK.
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