Between maskne, botched DIY hair cuts and lockdown foot (it’s a thing), the pandemic has wreaked havoc with our beauty and wellness routines. Luckily, the moment salons and spas re-opened their doors, our woes were almost immediately resolved. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about our mental health concerns. A year of isolating social distancing, gruelling lockdowns, devastating losses and financial strain has a legacy of anxiety and hopelessness that many of us are experiencing.
To make matters worse, we now have all of the complications of trying to resume some level of normality with a return to work and an influx of social activities that has only served to compound our struggles. Agoraphobia (the fear of going outside), social hangovers and health anxiety are at an all time high, with millions struggling with emotional exhaustion and burnout.
That’s why it’s never been so important to establish a robust wellness plan to carry you through this unprecedented transition phase. Having the correct tools in place can help you navigate your emotions, prepare for triggering moments and manage times of crisis in a much more compassionate and pragmatic way.
Here’s everything you’ll need to establish your post-lockdown wellness plan…
An anxiety journal
Just as keeping a food diary can help identify dietary intolerances, an anxiety journal can help you understand your unique emotional patterns, pinpoint any triggers that are causing you to feel distressed and raise a level of self-awareness and mindfulness when approaching new situations.
It needn’t take up much time, either. Simply have a note on your phone or a pad in your pocket and jot down any moments that you notice your mindset shifting or any physical symptoms setting in. Anxiety can cause an increased heart rate, sweating, and dizziness in the moment as well as reduced concentration, exhaustion and difficulty making decisions. It’s worth noting any time you experience these feelings, as well as what you were doing at the time. After a few days, you’ll be able to see patterns and triggers that you can start to unpick and prepare for.
The other form of journalling is known as ‘future-selfing’, which involves writing down what your future self wants, needs and deserves every day, as well as ideas on how your present self can reach these goals (try to set short, achievable goals rather than huge life achievements – for example, “my future self has a sense of calm when going into the office”, rather than, “my future self will be a millionaire”). The idea is that by focusing on the steps needed to achieve a less anxious, or more content version of yourself will encourage you to actually take those steps. It sounds simple but trust us, it’s effective.
We get it – you’re making up for lost time. You’re saying yes to every invitation, catching up with every friend you weren’t able to see and snapping up restaurant bookings well into 2022. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the newfound freedom, it’s extremely important to factor in rest and, vitally, sleep.
With a sudden rush of new places and faces, our lockdown brains that have been staring at the same four walls for the past twelve months are in experiential overdrive, and they need time to process.
Aim to have at least two nights a week with no plans whatsoever. On those nights, take things slowly, eat well and go to sleep at a reasonable time. You’ll feel so much better for it, and probably enjoy your social life a lot more, too.
The power of saying no
In the same vein of getting enough sleep, you’ll also need to start saying no sometimes in order to allow yourself time and space to rest. The great news is, once you push past the FOMO, you’ll realise just how liberating it feels to set boundaries and put your own needs first once in a while.
Take care of your physical health
If you’re run down or physically unwell, everything always seems so much worse. But after a year of social distancing and staying at home, our immune systems aren’t best placed to ward off common colds and illnesses from the outside world.
As we reenter society, try supplementing your diet with an immune-boosting vitamin, or add in some extra nutrients into your diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to give your body the best chance of thriving.
Spending excessive time at home, either alone or with a very small number of people, has made many of us feel as though we don’t know how to behave in a social environment. We feel weird and awkward around colleagues and the thought of having to make small talk fills us with existential dread.
Don’t suffer in silence – the best way to immediately diffuse a socially awkward situation is by admitting that you’re feeling socially awkward. Own it, and use it to your advantage rather than letting it consume you with anxiety. Chances are, the other person is feeling exactly the same way, and you pointing out the awkward elephant in the room is going to make them warm to you instantly.
Know when to seek professional help
These tips and tricks are great coping mechanisms. But they are no replacement for professional help and if you are in the midst of a mental health crisis, it is crucial that you tell someone you trust, or book in to see you GP as soon as possible.
Attitudes towards mental health conditions have come a long way and there are plenty of treatments available to help you. Whether you try a course of cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, or a newer option like eye movement desensitisation (EMDR), always remember you are not alone and you can – and you will – feel better.