Many people have been dreaming about lockdown easing pretty much since it started. However now the prospect is on the horizon lots of us are starting to feel quite conflicted. We’ve all had to find ways of dealing with reduced social contact, and have built the adjustments into our lives and our routines; however frustrating the last few months have been, most of us have found ways to cope and feel safe.

It’s natural to feel uncertain as we ease back into more social contact and life starting to return to more familiar ways. Some of our activities will be drastically different for some time to come, such as queuing up to get into shops, and wearing face masks in public places and on public transport. Coping with these changes may be a shock to people who have been avoiding them, while some people will be frustrated that these differences are ongoing.

Some people will have been living with pre-existing mental ill-health conditions that may have been worsened by the lockdown. Some people will have struggled with their mental health as a result of it. The return to activities that were already stressful for some, and have recently become stressful for others, such as being in crowded places, will be difficult to navigate.

We might be feeling angry with people who are rushing back into their social lives when we feel it should be a more gradual process. Even if we’ve been dealing with loneliness because we’ve been shielding, or missing friends and relatives who have been, we may be reluctant to see them as we’re all still aware that the virus is still a risk.

We may also be dealing with loss of loved ones and feel desperately sad that they’re no longer here to enjoy the easing of the situation.

It's important to remember that our reactions and feeling are all OK, whatever they might be. We’re all likely to feeling higher levels of stress, anxiety or depression due to the uncertainties at the moment, and the lack of control we’re all experiencing.

Learning to spot the signs of stress, anxiety and depression, and even grief, can help us recognise when we need to be kinder to ourselves and make time for extra self-care. It can also help us acknowledge when we might need some extra help. CASS have produced easy to use resources around Stress, Anxiety and Depression which cover all of these topics, and can help you find local organisations if you do need support. We also have a directory of services with a more comprehensive list of where to get help, and a Grief booklet if you’re struggling after losing someone.

Other ways to help yourself:

Take things at your own pace, and let other people take things at theirs. Don’t feel that you have to jump back in to your usual routine, especially if you are a member of a vulnerable group or from a community disproportionately affected by the virus. When you’re ready, pace yourself on activities like meeting friends, and start small.

Control what you can – carry on following guidance on handwashing and hygiene, and get information from reputable sources, such as the Government or Bristol City Council's dedicated page.

Talk to someone you trust – this can act as a way to acknowledge and release pent up feelings rather than bottling them up. Alternatively, try writing about how you’re feeling. Even if you tear up the page afterwards, getting the feelings out often helps

Find out what works for you in terms of self-care. It could be anything from watching a film you love, doing some physical exercise, reading a book, getting creative or spending time with a pet. Find what works to take your mind off your worries and allow yourself some time to do it.

Be kind to yourself. This is a difficult time for everyone and there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Try talking to yourself and giving yourself the same advice you’d give someone you care about. If you’d like to try some guided relaxation, CASS has a short audio on being kind to yourself that you can listen to and download here.

If necessary seek help as early as possible from mental health and wellbeing services, listed via the directory on the CASS website. If your feelings become overwhelming and start to seriously impact your life, please speak to your GP.

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