I don’t know about you, but at the start of lockdown ( a period I optimistically thought would last 6 weeks) I made lists of things I couldn’t wait to get back to when it was over. I planned to spend 6 weeks tidying my house, organising my life, and working out; before heading back out to the restaurants and theatres looking and feeling amazing! Not quite worked out like that though has it!
At the time of writing this, we’re 12 weeks on from the start of lockdown and life is by no means back to normal. Restrictions are easing, the shops are reopening today, and I finally have a provisional appointment for a haircut next month; but normal is still a long way off. While some people have been queuing outside Primark since 6am, many have no intention of rushing back to the shops or just, getting back out there. For many, the thought of going back to work, being around other people or even just leaving the house is filling them with anxiety. In fact, data from the Office of National Statistics suggests that 64% of people are still too afraid to leave their house. Why is that?
Our brains are not designed to embrace change. They’re designed to keep us safe, and this means doing things we’ve done before. You’ve heard of the expression of ‘going out of your comfort zone’? Doing something new is uncomfortable because we don’t know how it will turn out, and our brains find that scary.
Have you taken a moment to think about all that’s changed this year? I just watched a sketch Michael McIntyre did that sums it up really well. Imagine a year ago a fortune teller told you that in 2020 you would be wearing masks and gloves to shop, home schooling your kids while on furlough, missing your holiday and not able to hug your mum. You’d never have believed it! When we’re faced with that amount of change, our brains can feel under threat as we start to feel overwhelmed. And when we are under threat, there are 3 things that we can do to stay safe.
- Run away (anxiety)
- Hide and wait to the threat to go away (depression)
- Fight back (anger)
So, it’s no wonder that so many of us want to stay inside, where we feel safe and protected. The problem with that though is our world gets smaller. The less we interact with the world the less we want to, and we can lose confidence. That may be the confidence to go back to work, to drive the car again, or meet up with friends and have fun; all the things that enrich our lives.
What can we do? Here are some suggestions to get you back out there
- Focus on the positives.
Our brains don’t know the difference between imagination and reality. So, if you focus on all your fears and concerns, your brain will think they’ve actually happened, giving you more reason to retreat. Instead, focus on the things you’re grateful for. Write a list every day and you will soon feel calmer and more in control.
- Take small steps
If the thought of going to a big shopping centre is overwhelming, break it down. Go to a small local shop instead, or drive to the shopping centre but stay in the car. Just pushing against that comfort zone a little each day will make it seem manageable.
- Bottle that feeling of achievement
After taking even a tiny step, focus on that feeling of achievement and bask in it. The feeling of success will encourage you to do more and widen your horizons bit by bit.
And a positive thought to end on. We build resilience when we go through challenges. So, we’ll all be much more resilient after the coronavirus than we were before!!
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