Mental health

Nicola Baxter, AXA Health Psychological Coach

The new normal and what it means for your mental health

Anxiety

11 June 2021

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A report by the Office of national Statistics (ONS) suggested that 2020 saw the highest rise in diagnosed anxiety since 2011.[1]. There's no question that for many of us, changes to our routine, at home and work, can be stressful and impact on our wellbeing. So with more changes to come, AXA Health Psychological Coach, Nicola Baxter shares some tips on navigating through the new normal. 

The new normal?

What a year 2020 proved to be, with the world as we know it changing completely. Fast forward over 12 months and we’re starting to return to some kind of normal, except it’s not the normal we’re used to, it’s a ‘new kind normal.’ With this in mind, how can we navigate our way through the coming months as restrictions ease? 

Managing our feelings

Firstly, it might be helpful to accept that we may experience varying emotions as a result of change. We are in a period transition and adjustment, which can often cause us to feel fearful, worried or anxious. There can be a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ culture that can make us feel that we need to push on and ignore our feelings. But it is helpful to acknowledge our experiences as they arise. When we validate how we feel, we can remind ourselves this is a temporary state that will pass. 

Take your time

Just because restrictions are being eased doesn’t mean we need to rush back to how we lived before the restrictions were put in place. Take time to think about what you want life to look like moving forward, what has been working well? Have kindness and compassion for yourself, and don’t push yourself to do things that don’t feel right. 

Social Interactions

After a year of being told to keep distance from each other, it may feel unusual or uncomfortable to start increasing social interactions face-to- face. It may feel scary, even dangerous, to see other people. The past year has been difficult for everyone in different ways, so try and be compassionate and keep in mind we might feel differently about the easing of restrictions. If interactions feel strange, remember this is a period of adjustment for everyone and we don’t know what’s going on for other people. Allow space for those who need it. Keep contact with friends electronically if they aren’t ready to meet in person. Talk about how you feel to friends and family and don’t feel pushed into any social situations you aren’t ready for.

Working Life

If we look at how things have been over the last year, there may have been some changes to our routine.  How we do our work might have changed. We may have saved time in commuting and built new routines around this, set up a home office from the kitchen table or simply changed our working patterns, and we don’t know what this will change or feel like in the long term. Talking about our concerns with our manager, or colleagues, can be helpful. Letting other people know what you’re experiencing means there are options for how to best deal with the transitions.  

Nicola's top tips

  • Be kind to yourself. Think of all you’ve been through in the past year, and don’t push yourself to do more than you’re comfortable with. Set boundaries for what you can and can’t do.
  • Accept you may experience worry in these uncertain times. Try to keep in mind these feelings are quite normal and that they will pass.
  • Moving forwards, whether that means returning to work or developing a new routine, can be a good chance to let go of things that weren’t working for us and put more helpful strategies, such as reflection and mindfulness in place.

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible!” - Margaret Atwood

Further information and support

How to stop worrying | AXA Health

Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks | AXA Health

Managing your commuting experience | AXA Health

6 top tips for leaving lockdown | AXA Health

References

[1] Office of National Statistics. (April 2021). Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: 23 April 2021. Retrieved here: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk). (Accessed June 2021).

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