Written by Dr. Mark Winwood
Dr Mark Winwood is a leading figure in the mental health field and AXA Health’s Consultant Psychologist.
As lockdown measures start easing and the days, for some, begin to resemble a little more of our lives pre-coronavirus, we understand that there may be a sense of anxiety about the uncertain upcoming changes to our lifestyles. Whether it’s going back to work and school or venturing out to the shops, ‘normal’ stuff may still feel anything but. We’ve asked Dr Mark Winwood, Clinical Lead for Mental Health Services at AXA Health, for some of his top tips for coming out of lockdown and managing the changes many of us are making to our lives.
General tips for everyday life
Start with the certainties: Even in ever changing situations, there are some things that we can be more certain about. Focus on these certainties and consistencies, however small, to help manage anxieties around uncertainty and extend our sense of control.
Change ‘what if’ to ‘what can’: Thinking about ‘what ifs’ can fill us with fear. Changing ‘what if…?’ worries to ‘what can I do?’ or ‘how can I prepare myself for…?’ can help us prepare in practical ways for what we might be concerned about
Make change part of life: Introducing little or simple changes such as changing your walking route or where you do your food shop can help you be more comfortable with change more generally and we can then find the bigger uncertainties a little less daunting
Helping children with change
Be open – Use language they understand to have open conversations about going back to school, the changes that might occur and the worries, concerns and fears that they may have. Ask them what they’d like to know and reassure them regarding safety and that you’re there to discuss any worries they might have.
Encourage them to think about change – Perhaps this could involve them drawing what will look different about school and using their imagination. It can also highlight to you what fears they might have and that might initiate a helpful conversation.
Think of some positives together – Think about what your child likes to do at school and start doing some of that now. Ask them what they’re looking forward to and some of the things they’ve enjoyed over recent weeks.
Managing return to work
Communicate, communicate, communicate – The most important thing for managers to support their workforce is to communicate regularly in as many differ ways as possible. Sometimes there is no update, but it is important to continue to communicate, it’ll helps to reinforce key messages and remind them of any Covid19 related strategy. Remember communication is two way so by having regular communication sessions it will and give you the opportunity to hear their concerns and answer their questions. It is especially valuable and important when employees are at different stages of returning to the workplace and may feel more disconnected than usual.
Help them adapt to change – Tell them about the changes they’ll see in the workplace or working practices to ensure their safety. Make it really clear that their safety and wellbeing are your priority, as well as how they can play their part and where they can get support within your organisation.
Look after yourself too – Remember to look after your own wellbeing, access manager support and set good examples to your team around work life balance so they feel equipped and able to do the same.
Social media intake
Try not to compare - Remember that those social media images are a highlight and they are going to be there probably in more prolific amounts than they were before. If we don’t think we’re having as good a time as others, these can bring us down and we might get into the ‘compare and despair cycle’, so be mindful of that.
Have limits – Compulsively checking for social media updates and news reports might feel helpful but it can also have a negative impact our mood. Try and limit and curate your intake to ensure balance and prevent becoming overwhelmed.
Think about what is important to you – what does joy, happiness and being connected mean to you? That’s far more valuable than comparing your experience with other people.
Remember that it’s okay to feel anxious; such uncertainty makes it challenging not to be. Take a look at our resilience pages and mental health hub for more information and tips to help you look after yourself through these unfamiliar times.