Why has my anxiety peaked post-lockdown?

As someone that has suffered from anxiety disorders, I thought that the whole lockdown process would send me into meltdown mode. It ticks all the boxes: genuine cause for worry, suffocating restrictions and a new virus to constantly google death rates and symptoms (not that I needed another one, everyday headaches quickly become brain tumours after a google search or two.)

Now, the most surprising part to me was that I was surprisingly okay. No meltdown and no increase in panic attacks. I became increasingly suspicious. Why was it that when the world suddenly throws me one of the most concerning pandemics I will (hopefully) ever live through that my panic mode had swiftly exited. The whole world is panicking and yet, here I was feeling okay (!?)

I put the reason down to the fact that my anxiety brain always expected this to happen. I am ALWAYS prepared for the worst as I always catastrophise that the worst will come. This isn’t me; this is the anxiety brain talking, I am actually quite an optimistic person. But when you’re used to leaving the house and already planning an emergency route in case there’s a terror attack, or taking a pharmacy bag around with you in case you suddenly develop an allergy you never knew you had, suddenly the worst case scenario did not seem that bad. Afterall, I have had a lifetime of anxiety to prepare me for how I would feel in this situation.

After reading a few similar articles online, it appears that a lot of anxiety sufferers were in the same boat. We were expecting the worst and once it came to fruition, it’s not nearly as bad as our brains had made it out to be. This is not to detract from the fact that it is of course devastating for all people affected.

So, I plodded along through lockdown adapting to the emergency situation and got along quite nicely. I didn’t leave the house; I stayed in my safe little bubble and did my part for society to stop the spread. Little did I realise that I was feeding into the part of my disorder that would love me to never leave the house again. My safety net. During my worst episodes, all I wanted to do was stay home forever so I would never be scared again. This was also being confirmed by every media outlet, every scientist and politician (barr DOnald Trump.) So naturally, my brain understood that home is the only safe place to be.

When the restrictions started being lifted, I was excited to get back to normal and do all the things I had missed during lockdown. But I noticed that even though I had my “freedom” back, I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t rush out to the beach, to meet friends, to go to dinner. I carried on in my bubble.

Alas, I am now in a sticky situation trying to navigate this “new normal” whilst combating a serious bout of anxiety. With the correct precautions, I know it is so important for me to start leaving the house again. It was really deflating to feel like I was back to square one, finding it difficult in normal social situations and feeling extremely on edge in busy places.

I decided to compile a list of my top tips to get back out there:

1. Celebrate victories, no matter how big or small. If they’re big to you then they’re important. You made it to the supermarket? Be bloody proud, that’s tough. You went for a walk? Nice one, the fresh air does you good. Celebrate conquering these challenges.

2. Repeat positive affirmations. This seems silly but its helped me get through some situations. My favourite to repeat at the moment is “I’m safe.” Just by spinning your thought process to something positive can be really reassuring.

3. Push yourself. Always do this one at your own pace but I’ve realised I’m not going to get any better by sticking to my comfort zone. I don’t want to overdo it either but find a level you can work with and make sure to keep doing that little bit extra every day. If im scared to drive alone, I might get someone to wait for me at the other end with their phone on – this way I can practise driving alone but I know theres someone on hand if I need them.

4. Write it down. Get all the “what ifs?” out in advance. “what if I passed out in the supermarket?” Well most probably people would come to help and make sure you’re okay. Then the world keeps on turning. No big deal. “What if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere?” that’s what insurance is for, charge your phone and write down the emergency number for your car insurance. By writing them down and finding solutions you take away the fear and introduce some rational ideas.

5. Be team *insert your name*. Anxiety can feel like a battle with yourself but it doesn’t have to be. Give yourself more credit, be gentle in the way you talk to yourself and get onboard to be your own fan. I am proudly team Sophie.

6. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed on your first attempt. Its not a step back, you pushed yourself and that is amazing. Don’t put yourself down for trying.

Its a tough time but we will get through this like we've gotten through every other issue life has thrown at us.

Lots of love,

Sophie Bee xx