Reopening anxiety? Here’s some tips to help you feel comfortable being in public again
“We’ve done so well to get this outbreak under control,” New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern said as she announced an end to the nationwide lockdown outside of Auckland.
Still, it’s common to see people expressing their nerves about going back into public. People across Aotearoa are experiencing a phenomenon experts call ‘reopening anxiety’. This isn’t anything new, and was widely experienced overseas as restrictions were eased.
Managing Reopening Anxiety
Anxiety is your brain’s way of saying “I’m not safe right now”. It’s an impulse, automatic, unconscious response from your ‘survival brain’ so there’s no need to blame yourself for feeling anxious.
Even as the outbreak comes under control, you and your brain’s vigilance is understandable! Our brains are also not designed to change direction this quickly. How do you overcome the things your brain was told repeatedly (“It’s dangerous out there!”) and conquer your fears?
One way to manage your reopening anxiety better is to reframe your thoughts about it.
Here are a few key thoughts for anyone feeling hesitant to rush back into public spaces – from Rob Cartwright, our Head of NZ here at Bravely.
There is no rush
Everyone is somewhere along the spectrum of wanting to ‘get back out there’ and that’s okay. If you don’t feel ready yet, you don’t have to immediately return to pre-lockdown levels of activity. You can continue to opt for only going out when deemed necessary.
Your feelings are totally normal
If you look overseas, there are still people in the UK and US that don’t feel comfortable being fully out and about. It’s normal to feel some anxiety, especially with new rules to learn.
Focus on what you can control
This is where the new rules can be helpful. They can tell you what you can focus on: things you can do and control. Try to focus on those instead of worrying about what other people are doing. You know you’re doing your end of the work so just keep it up!
Talk to someone you trust
Reach out to someone you trust and can talk to. They’re likely feeling the same way. Hearing that you are not alone, you’re not the only one feeling the way you do, can be comforting. They can also share some reassuring thoughts you would appreciate to hear right now.
Set your boundaries
Healthy boundaries are key to mental health overall and can be particularly important now. Be confident to set boundaries around what you are comfortable doing. You don’t have to attend the party if you don’t want to.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself and others. Other people may be more anxious than you are and that’s totally fine too. If you’re keen or feel safe about going out and about right away, don’t pressure others who feel less comfortable to do the same.
Feeling Extra Anxious?
If you’re feeling particularly distressed, it helps to have tools you can tap into to manage your anxious thoughts and calm your body. If you are looking for a supportive community where you can feel anonymous, and get help with the challenges or feelings you are facing, then check out our Discord server. Our server is a space where it is okay to be struggling with the fear of Covid19, and there are people who will help you as much as they can to feel more comfortable with the fear that comes with restrictions lifting.