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Dealing with ‘re-entry anxiety’: How to navigate the path out of lockdown


by Louise Slyth
07th Jun 2021

Getty

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From today, June 7, up to 6 people can meet at an outdoor bar or restaurant. But the feelings about going out are mixed with many of us feeling a pang of re-entry anxiety.

Were you ringing around making restaurant bookings as soon as reopening plans were announced in early May? Or are you a little more, (excuse the pun) reserved?

Even though Ireland has endured one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe, there could be many reasons why you aren’t yet throwing on your heels and rushing out into the world like an extra from the Wrigley’s ad. 

Trust

Firstly, let’s not forget that whilst we are now making great progress with vaccines, we aren’t there yet. We only have to look back at Christmas to see the dire consequences of letting our guard down too soon.

Since March 2020, we have been living with what I call “constant low-level terror”. Our fight or flight responses have been so overwrought that we no longer know whether we are coming or going. 

The pace of life is slower, and for some of us, that has been a balm and a blessing. 

In tandem with that, ever-changing guidance has meant that “The Rulebook” has been rewritten so many times over the last 12 months that it’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed about re-emerging into society. 

Our “new normal” is just normal now

One of my friends put it well when she said, “I’m not sure I want to go back to how it was before – I’m exhausted just thinking about my old life”. Perhaps a shove off the hamster wheel was exactly what some of us needed to re-assess and re-group. 

Pre-Covid, a regular weekend for me would have been drinks with friends, a gym visit, a shopping trip, dinner with my husband, a yoga class and maybe a massage. That now feels like a week’s worth of activities. 

Lots of families who, prior to Covid, perhaps only saw each other at mealtimes, now regularly enjoy movie nights and family walks. The pace of life is slower, and for some of us, that has been a balm and a blessing.

Social awkwardness

The last time I saw any of my friends in person was in August last year. Will there be a little social awkwardness, like a first date, but hopefully much better? I’m almost wondering whether I’ll have forgotten my table manners by this stage…

So if you are like me, and a little tentative and cautious, how do you navigate the path out of lockdown? 

if sea swimming on a Saturday morning holds more allure than a hangover, then embrace it

The good news is that you don’t have to give up the things you liked about lockdown. It may not be a case of just picking up where you left off – things may have changed. You may have changed. If a movie and a takeaway on a Friday night has become a treasured ritual, then there is no need to change that just because the bars are open. 

Life after lockdown can be whatever you want it to be. You don’t have to go back to your old life – if sea swimming on a Saturday morning holds more allure than a hangover, then embrace it. None of us are likely to be exactly the same coming out of this as we were going into it. And that’s ok. 

Before Covid, regularly spending Saturday night in would have been unthinkable for me. I now look forward to “Bubbles Saturday” with cava and old rom coms. I plan to rotate the glamour of Dublin’s nightlife with the comforting lure of my sofa. At least at first…

Take things at your own pace

There is an episode of Friends when Ross is bemoaning how bored he is. “I’ve already been to the bank, the post office and the drycleaners” ..to which Joey replies “Dude – you just described seven days worth of stuff”. If it all just feels a bit much, be like Joey and space things out. 

If your friend has written a book during lockdown and all you have to show for it is a few extra pounds, just remind yourself that you are still here, and that is all that matters. 

If you are feeling anxious at the thought of meeting in a bar, or a weekend packed with activities, then be honest. Your friends will understand. They may secretly be feeling the same way and be relieved someone has spoken up. Set your own boundaries and communicate your needs.

We all have one friend who has totally smashed Covid. And we also probably all know someone who has spent the last 15 months under the duvet. It’s likely you will fall somewhere in the middle. If your friend has written a book during lockdown and all you have to show for it is a few extra pounds, just remind yourself that you are still here, and that is all that matters. 

And finally, what on earth do I wear?

I’m sure that there is a part of you that wants to buy the entire stock of Brown Thomas and go out like a shimmering pony, but there may well be a part of you that still feels comfier in, well, “comfies”. I’ll be sporting tea dresses and trainers all summer. It’s a look I love and a safe halfway between loungewear and bodycon dresses. 

I don’t know what to expect from an outdoor summer. But there is one thing I do know. I will never again take for granted the pure joy of being out in the world, sitting with my wonderful tribe of friends, feeling hopeful, with full glasses and fuller hearts.