As lockdowns begin to ease across the UK, my social media feed, and I’m sure yours too, is full of people meeting friends over pints and slowly going back to normal. So why does that make me feel worse instead of better?
Many people have been eager to rush back into their social lives; to do a big Primark shop, to sit outside a coffee shop, to have that glorious elixir known as a beer you haven’t poured yourself. But for many people, and especially those who are disabled and neurodivergent, the easing of lockdown comes with its own challenges.
For those who have been shielding, a return to crowds can seem overwhelming, and it may still feel too soon. For those with who are disabled or suffer from chronic illness, the world can seem more inaccessible than ever; with pubs and cafes poured into the streets, there leaves little room to manoeuvre, and the return to “normality” also threatens a move away from the online events and resources that are a lifeline.
And for those of us who just don’t feel safe socialising until everyone is vaccinated, it can feel a little like being a kid stuck indoors with the chickenpox, watching their friends play out the window. But it takes time.
So here are a few things to remember, for both yourself and others, as lockdown begins to ease.
You’re allowed to feel worried, apprehensive, and even scared.
Life has been so uncertain, and will continue to be so for a while yet. A lot of us haven’t had contact outside of our household for over a year, so it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the changes. You could be scared of losing touch with friends, or scared that there’ll be another wave, or scared of your own future.
It’s also normal to feel conflicted; to want to be involved and see friends, but dread it in some way all the same. In that vein:
You’re allowed to go at your own pace.
Everyone moves at different speeds in all matters of life, and this is no different. It’s okay if other people seem to be moving quicker than you, if it feels like your life has been on hold. There is time. Friends, experiences, events, will all still be there when you need them again.
If you can, also recognise that other people may need more time than you. Try and keep up those weekly walks with a friend who doesn’t feel safe meeting in a pub garden just yet; for one thing, your liver will thank you. Or, if you’re like me, you can always have tinnies in the park. You can even get your friend to charge you £8 a beer if you’re really missing the authentic city experience.
You’re allowed to say ‘no’.
Whether you don’t want to go to a large gathering, it’s a bit too cold to sit outside with friends, or you just need some time to recover, you’re allowed to say ‘no’ to people. Once pubs and clubs re-open properly, you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every night out. You don’t have to book a holiday as soon as you can.
It’s okay to feel good one day, and back at square one the next. You know yourself best, and sometimes you need a night-in with Netflix and a (much cheaper) bottle of wine, regardless of the fact that feels like all you’ve done over the last year. There’s no pressure. There’s no competition. Take time for yourself, too.
Don’t believe everything you seen on social media.
This goes without saying at any time, but I feel like it needs to be reiterated. It can feel like everyone around you is losing weight, finishing a degree, getting a new job, or just generally living their best lives. But you know as well as I do that social media only shows perfected fragments of the whole story. You are not alone in not jumping straight back to the gym, in living at home with your parents, in still being single – none of these are bad things.
You don’t need to lose your lockdown weight and look “your best” for June 21st, or any other irrelevant deadline. You certainly don’t need to change yourself and your life in order to be more akin to the Instagram stories you spend hours watching. Even if you don’t think you’re at your best right now, hell – we’ve been in a pandemic. If there’s ever a time to learn how to feel comfortable in your skin and to catch up on Westworld instead of learning a language, it’s now.
Keep talking to friends and family.
Some of us are simply separated from their closest friends by geography, and we ache to be back to normal. So, even if you are meeting up with people in real life, don’t forget about the friends you can’t see so easily. One of the best things about lockdown for me has been meeting new people across the country through webcam and organising weekly calls with school friends, something we fell out of the habit of in first year.
Keep being kind.
For better or worse, the world is opening up again. Shop workers will be overwhelmed, as will care workers, hospitality staff, people going back to the office or back to uni. Look out for friends you don’t hear from very often, or the friend who doesn’t join the pub meet-up, or the friend who’s been shielding. Unfortunately, the end of lockdown isn’t a fix-all for everyone.
As someone who is neurodivergent but also had their beloved university social life cut short by lockdown, my anxiety has made it difficult to even go into Tesco, let alone back into the world. I’m going to be taking this transition slow and steady – not to win the race, but just so I can reach the end.
You’re not alone in feeling anxious. You’re not alone, full stop.
Image courtesy of Jon Eric Marababol.