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Handling social pressures after lockdown

Ease back into life with our expert advice

The last few months have been challenging—having to adapt to restrictions we’re not used to, not being able to spend time with friends and family and concerns about our physical and mental health. But after a while, many of us settled into lockdown life and the ‘new normal.’
But with the recent announcement that restrictions are lifting even further, we find ourselves having to adapt to yet another kind of normal. While many will be feeling excited and eager to feel that sense of normality again, others are likely to feel a little less enthusiastic, and possibly nervous about the prospect of heading out and socialising.

A recent UCL study of 80,000 people showed that the previous easing of restrictions in May had already caused an increase in stress levels, particularly in the bigger cities. On top of worrying about future plans, loved ones and our own health, heading out to the pub or to a park with a group of friends is another pressure some might not be ready to face. In addition, the thought of socialising with those who may not have been as responsible as you during lockdown can be unsettling.

So, how can we navigate this next phase without compromising our own mental health? Here are five tips from Nelsons Rescue Remedy to help you tackle social pressures and doubts:

Know your limits
If you’re struggling to figure out exactly how you’re feeling, spend some time reflecting and assessing your emotions. You could keep a journal over the next few weeks, track your moods, or simply write a sentence or two about the situation. Projecting your thoughts onto paper can help you see things more clearly and understand what your next step should be. Talking to a close friend or family member might also be a good option and will allow you to see another point of view.

Visualisation
Just like writing, picturing yourself in a situation can help you understand your limits. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine you are sitting outside a pub with a group of friends. Picture which pub it is, what the street looks like, how many people are around you. As you’re doing this, take note of what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling stressed, try visualising something else, maybe it’s just two of you outside the pub – how do you feel now?

Ease back in
There’s absolutely no rush to be the first one through the bar or restaurant door. Take as little or as big a step as you feel you can. Maybe set some small, easy goals for yourself on a piece of paper, but don’t worry about setting yourself a timeline. Reassess how you’re feeling after every social situation and once you’re ready, maybe move onto the next step.

Speak up
Not everybody is going to be on the same page, and that’s okay. But it’s important that you don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. If a friend is struggling to understand why you won’t come to the pub or is minimising your feelings, tell them kindly that you need to take some time for yourself, or talk to someone who will understand. If you have friends who are feeling similar concerns, let them know that they can also open up to you. Communicating during this time can help you relate to others, stand your ground and move forwards at your own pace.

Self-care
FOMO had been replaced by a more general feeling of missing out on ‘what would’ve been’, but the reopening of bars and restaurants means FOMO is likely to make a comeback. But if you’ve made the decision to stay in, try not to feel guilty. Instead, treat yourself to an evening of relaxation and self-care. Put on some music and have a wiggle in your living room, take a bath, read a book and remind yourself that there are going to be plenty of opportunities for you to go out and socialise. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable doing it and that you prioritise how you’re feeling every step of the way.
 



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