Life Post Lockdown, how to treat yourself with kindness after a traumatic experience.
Melbourne is officially the city that has endured the most lockdowns worldwide. I spent many days inside, longing to return to a time before Covid. Sadly, Covid is here to stay, and we are now living in the new ‘normal’. After over 246 days in lockdown and Covid on the loose, how do we return to the outside world?
Coming out of Lockdown… Anxiously
For the majority of the past two years, the news and our social media accounts have shown us the severe impact of Covid-19. Many people lost loved ones to Covid, lost friends because of differing opinions, and/or lost jobs and businesses. Now that lockdowns are over, we must re-emerge while dealing with the trauma, fear, and anxiety caused by Covid-19. It’s only natural for our ‘flight or fight’ mode to kick in. Here are some steps you can take as you emerge from lockdown and transition back to work/school.
Step 1 – Acknowledgement and Reflection during Life Post Lockdown
The first step is acknowledging that what we have been through has been traumatic. Permit yourself to experience some reaction to it. Everyone reacts to trauma differently. Often, we mistake signs of trauma as “just having an off day”, and instead of acknowledging it, we ignore it. Here are some reactions to trauma that you may have experienced because of the impact of Covid-19.
By acknowledging our reactions, we give ourselves room to reflect. Think to yourself, why do you feel the way you do? For example, I feel anxious, fatigued, and avoid social situations. Upon reflection, I know I feel this way because I’ve been in lockdown for so long. I’m scared. I’ve forgotten how to interact with others. By understanding our feelings and the reasons behind them, we can work towards moving on.
Step 2 – Self-compassion during Life Post Lockdown
Often, we are our own worst enemy. We tend to blame ourselves during unpleasant situations. An article by Ciara O’Connor Walsh sums this up perfectly. She describes the unpleasant situation as the “first arrow” and the blame we place on ourselves as the “second arrow”. Although we can’t always control the “first arrow”, we can practice changing how we respond to it.
For example, the “first arrow” might be going into Lockdown because of Covid-19. Coming out of lockdown, you may feel anxious about going back to work. Our thoughts surrounding this anxiety could be something like, “I’m anxious because I can’t remember how to do my job… That means I’m bad at my job. They are going to fire me because I’m a horrible employee”. This self-blame is the “second arrow”, and it escalates from “this is a bad situation” to “I am bad”.
What we want to do is change how we respond to unpleasant situations. This can be done by recognising the “second arrow” pattern and thinking or saying to yourself, “I see you second arrow”.
By recognising the pattern of the self-blame and how it progresses, it is easier to identify that it’s our interpretation of the events, not the reality. For example, the coffee spilled because of an accidental knock on the table, not because you are a bad person. Once you can recognise the “second arrow” and see it coming, you’ve got to indulge in a bit of kindness to yourself. Respond to yourself the way you would to a friend.
If your friend confessed they are nervous returning to work, you would not tell them, “That makes you bad at your job” you would say to them, “It’s understandable because we have been in lockdown for a while”. Use this same approach on yourself. Tell yourself it is going to be okay and be nicer to yourself.
Step 3 – Patience during Life Post Lockdown
It’s important to remember that it might take some time to feel like your ‘normal’ self again. Give yourself the time you need. Do not forget to give yourself permission for mistakes. Overcoming trauma is not a linear process. There will be good days and bad days. Remind yourself you are managing, and sometimes that is enough for one day.
Step 4. Reach out
Expressing your feelings and needs can help your friends and family understand what they can do to help. This can be as simple as “I need time alone today” or “I would like to talk about my struggles”.
If you continue to feel numb and cannot handle the intense feelings and physical sensations or are struggling to return to work, reach out to our team at Boutique Psychology.