Life Wellbeing Feeling anxious about returning to ‘normal’? You’re not alone
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Feeling anxious about returning to ‘normal’? You’re not alone

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Hey Australia – well done. You’ve nearly made it through one of the toughest years in recent memory.

And Melbourne, especially you; coming out of a stunning 111-day lockdown. You’ve earned that beer.

We’re all looking forward to eased restrictions and open borders in time for Christmas. Everything is on track for a return to (COVID) normal.

But while we’re being told to celebrate our gigantic efforts in halting this virus and get back out there, some of us are feeling more reluctant than others.

And health experts say that’s perfectly normal.

It has been a stressful time, this 2020 of ours: People have been reporting an increase in mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Lifeline noted requests for its service has increased by 25 per cent this year.

That anxiety won’t just disappear overnight.

Generalised feelings of anxiety, nervousness about being out and about, fear of a return to lockdown and even just being generally overwhelmed, are all normal.

The best thing to do, clinical psychologist Jill Newby said, is to take things at your own pace.

“(It’s OK) to take your time and slowly ease back into how things were before the lockdown started,” said Professor Newby, from Black Dog Institute and University of New South Wales.

“To build your confidence, it can be helpful to take it step by step, using the principles of exposure therapy.

“Begin by socialising with people you feel more comfortable with, and then gradually building up to larger crowds, such as in shops, pubs or other large venues.”

Leaving a bucket list unchecked

When we were plunged into lockdown, many of us used it as an opportunity to do all the things we said we never had time for.

Sourdough, gardening, pottery, learning a new language – you name it, it was trending on socials at some stage.

When there was little else to do but scroll through social media, we were confronted with an absolute deluge of people “acing” lockdown by learning and perfecting a bunch of new skills.

The overachievers took the challenge of lockdown quite seriously. Photo: Getty

That can understandably be overwhelming.

Mental health support organisation Beyond Blue said the important thing was to focus on what you did do during lockdown – and seeing through a global pandemic is pretty darn admirable, whether you fermented any vegetables or just caught up on your Netflix watchlist.

A return to an amplified normal

For people who lived with social anxiety before the pandemic struck, going back to that state can pose even more challenges.

Beyond Blue said the quiet of lockdown eased the social challenges many people faced – like face-to-face interactions or busy crowds.

The organisation recommends a host of techniques on its website for people who are experiencing social anxiety: Including how to challenge those intrusive negative thoughts, breathing techniques and mindfulness recommendations.

  • If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue online here or by calling 1800 512 348