With many adults going back to work and children preparing to return to school, many people are feeling quite anxious about what the future holds. If you suffer from anxiety, the last few months have likely offered some respite from the normal stresses of everyday life. You might have enjoyed the feeling of being cocooned and safe and not be relishing the thought of stepping back into the “real” world, even without the worry of COVID-19.
The latest messages from the government aren’t helping, especially the slogan, “Stay Alert” which is enough to worry even the most resilient of us.
So, what can we do to make this transition into the “new normal” easier for ourselves and our children?
The first thing I would suggest is practising positive visualisation of the very best outcome. I have spoken to many people who are spending hours, especially at bedtime, imagining what it would be like to have COVID-19 and the implications of passing it to vulnerable family members.
This isn’t helped by watching hours of news and constantly researching the numbers of daily cases and deaths. First of all, limit your screen time. Watch the news for just half an hour a day to keep up with what’s happening, but remember that consuming worrying news stories has a very negative effect on your thoughts, emotions and even your physical health. It’s important to keep a balanced view and we don’t always get this from mainstream media reports.
Instead, think about what you do want and imagine yourself being successful. See yourself as happy and healthy. Imagine achieving what you want to at work or in your business. Spend five or ten minutes a day doing this to counteract those negative thoughts and images. It will help to lift your mood and calm and clear your mind. As you are visualising, be aware of any tension in your body and relax each muscle group as much as possible.
Remember that children are very quick to pick up on your emotions and will follow your lead when it comes to how they think and feel about returning to school. I know it seems obvious, but please be careful about what you say in front of them. If you and your partner are at odds about whether you should be sending them back to school, for example, make sure there are no little ears listening to that conversation.
Practise positive visualisation with them before they go to sleep at night. Talk to them about what they’re looking forward to and how great it will be to see their friends and teachers again. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine all the things they will enjoy doing, even though things may be different for a while. Most schools have been great at sending detailed emails explaining how they will observe social distancing and describing the changes. Use this to get children excited about the new challenges.
Get Back into Routines
It may have been a while since you had to watch the clock. Perhaps the daily routine has been forgotten and you’ve found yourselves eating and sleeping at odd hours. After all this time, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system to have to get up early and be all dressed, fed and organised by 8 am. Start setting the morning alarm again so that your body has the chance to adjust and get back into a natural rhythm. Set a time for meals and perhaps get back to some kind of schedule that will make working and school days easier.
Organise Clothes and Resources
You may have spent the last few months lazing around in your PJs or comfy clothes and not worrying too much about your appearance. If so, it’s time to go through the wardrobe and make sure you have everything ready for returning to the outside world. Get all your clothes freshened up and treat yourself to some new things that will give you that bit of confidence about going back to work. Just getting up in the morning and putting on your work clothes will make you feel more mentally prepared for your return.
I know many school children have been told not to worry about wearing school uniforms when they return. This may vary from school to school. In either case, make sure they have clothes ready and perhaps treat them to a few new items especially for going back to school.
Make sure you have all that you need well ahead of time. You don’t want to be rushing about on the morning of your return looking for lunchboxes, bags, pens, keys or anything else. Again, replace anything now so that you feel confident and ready to go.
Remember Your Social Skills!
Many people will be suffering from social anxiety after being at home for so long. If you’ve spent the last few months cocooned with the family or even completely alone, take some time now to start chatting to other people. Even going for a walk and smiling and greeting strangers will help. You can do this whilst adhering to social distancing measures.
If possible, arrange a socially distanced walk with friends or work colleagues. If you have a large enough garden, you can even invite a few friends or colleagues for a chat outside.
If children haven’t seen friends for a few months and are feeling nervous about seeing them again or have worries about how things will be different, can you arrange an outdoor play date? You can take some time to teach them about social distancing and think of activities they can do and games they can play without having to be too close. It might help to put your own mind at rest, too.
Make Positive New Plans
These few months have given us all a chance to really step back and examine what’s important. We won’t be returning to “normal” life for quite some time, if ever. Is that such a bad thing, though? Perhaps you’ve realised that you need to spend more time as a family and that your work-life balance was a bit off before all this. Perhaps you really don’t want to return to your old job or way of life and it’s time to start something new.
Start journaling all the positive things that have come out of lockdown. What do you want your life to look like in the future? How can you make sure that things progress as you want them to? What plans can you put into place?
Take things slowly as the world starts to awaken again. Imagine that the reset button has been pressed and you have the opportunity to start as you mean to continue. Make a vision board and start to really visualise what you want as you enter this new chapter. Make time every day for doing things that you love. If you have dreams of a new career or starting your own business, how can you start taking steps to make it happen?
What do you want to take forward and what can you leave behind?
Ask for Help if You Need It
Speak to colleagues and friends about how you’re feeling. You might be surprised to hear that they have very similar concerns. It will help to know you aren’t alone and you can make plans as to how you can support each other moving forward.
If you are suffering from anxiety, insomnia or having particular worries about getting back out there and feel you need some extra help, please do get in touch for a chat. I offer a free 15-minute consultation via Zoom so you can ask questions and we can discuss how hypnotherapy could help to reduce those worrying thoughts and boost your self-confidence. I will continue to offer sessions online and I will also be returning to the therapy room from 4th July, so I can see you in person or via Zoom depending on your location and what you feel most comfortable with.