Lockdown Whiplash: How to Mentally Prepare For Things Re-Opening

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Oct 04, 2021

Aisling Quigley, founder of The Sunrise Collective, mindfulness & meditation facilitator, writes about how to mentally prepare for things re-opening

With a hint of normality in the air and light starting to crack through at the very end of the lockdown tunnel, a new set of challenges are now making themselves known, such as the mounting stress and anxiety of re-entering society and the new post-pandemic normal.

Chances are you’ve been feeling it, and you’re not alone – it’s a very real thing that many of us are facing as we navigate uncharted territories for the first time, again.

The thing is, going back to normal isn’t as easy as it sounds. COVID-19 quite frankly turned our lives as we knew them upside down and, as creatures of routine, with brains that take comfort in what’s known and familiar, it’s human nature to experience some apprehension in times of change. With that in mind, as restrictions are slowly lifted it’s important to remember you don’t have to throw yourself into the deep end; That leaving home, socialising and heading back into the office is something that as best as you can, you should approach slowly, with a few key tips below to help:

  1. Aisling Quigley
    Aisling Quigley

    Check-in with yourself regularly

Monitor yourself for feelings of anxiety or overwhelm as you hear news updates, receive invites, or have conversations about restrictions easing and plans being made. How does that make you feel? Do you notice you tense up and feel panic rising, or is there excitement there? Information is power. Listen to your experiences and use them as clues as to how you should respond. Check-in with how you’re feeling and with that information take appropriate action – those feelings don’t lie.

  1. Go slow & start small

There can be such a rush to feel like you need to do all the things, and see all the people, especially having been deprived or gone without for so long. But everything doesn’t need to be done at the same time. We haven’t been used to lots of activities or people, so our energy levels and nervous systems are likely to get overwhelmed quickly. Go slow, maybe commit to one thing, and start small, maybe seeing one person or a small vs. large group, test the waters and build from there.

  1. Stop “should-ing” all over yourself

If we had a dollar for every time we felt we “should” do something it’s likely we’d all be very wealthy. Just because everyone you know is out, living their best lives on social media, doesn’t mean you need to feel the pressure to. What feels nourishing, what feels depleting? How do you do more of what lights you up, vs. what drains you? Go easy on yourself and leave your “shoulds” behind, it’ll make all the difference.

  1. Share how you’re feeling

Often, we can feel like alone in our experiences, or, without realising it – that our partners/friends/families/colleagues should be mind-readers; An almost impossible task when we’re faking feeling great for the sake of making others comfortable. Vulnerability sparks vulnerability, and it’s likely that if you share, the other person will feel a lot more comfortable in sharing too, or at the very least will better understand how they can support you better or point you in the direction of someone who can. If you’re not comfortable sharing, you might journal about it and just get how you’re feeling out of your head and physically onto a page. Surrendering instead of bottling or suppressing things can lift a huge weight off us and prevent us feeling stuck.

  1. Recognise you’re not alone

Especially with something we’ve been anticipating for so long, it can feel isolating to wonder why you’re not pumped or overjoyed to rush back to normality, but “FOGO (Fear of Going Out)” and “FONO (Fear of Normal)” have become commonplace in light of the pandemic. Many people are reporting feelings of social anxiety for the very first time. If you are struggling, remember you’re not alone, and that it’s ok. It would be more surprising to effortlessly float back into life post-pandemic life.

  1. Stock up on patience and flexibility 

It is likely emotions will be high and all the finer details of how we operate and function as societies and workplaces will hit some roadblocks, so be patient and know that some flexibility may be required. Things may feel a little clunky for a while as we all navigate this new world together, and it will take time. Organisations, venues and event organisers, business owners, and members of the public do not have it all figured out, so be patient and stay flexible as best as you can.

  1. Set boundaries & manage expectations

Know your limits, recognise what’s off-limits for you and stick to that as best as you can. Have the conversations you need to upfront to avoid the awkward interactions down the line and to give others the context and perspective to understand why maybe you haven’t responded to their invite, or haven’t shown up to the picnic. If they are truly a good friend, they will understand.

  1. Keep up your self-care habits

Have you discovered that a meditation or journaling practice has really benefited you? Or that a walk around the block or by the beach has really helped over the past number of months? Prioritise it. Tending to those practices that reset your nervous system and act as the respite you need from the demands of life and the voice in your head will become even more important. Don’t ditch them just because we’re back to real life again. Take what you’ve learned and embed it.

  1. Celebrate joy

Once you do start experiencing some level of normality in whatever way that feels comfortable to you, recognise the moments of joy, the moments of uplift and celebrate the moments of true connection. Take in the conversations, the shared experiences and all the benefits that are to be uncovered, as they arise. Reflect on how good it feels and allow that to come to mind the next time your anxiety, stress or overwhelm may arise. If you can’t, know that’s ok too.

If you’re feeling worried or uncertain about what you’re feeling, remember that the return to life post-pandemic is likely something that will likely significantly challenge your social, physical and mental health. If you feel you’re in need of some support, there are so many resources out there available to help in whatever way you need. It’s ok not to be ok and even better to ask for help. Check out some of the resources below to help you do just that:

  • Beyond Blue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email
  • Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.
  • Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, helping young people who are going through a tough time. www.headspace.org.au/

Aisling Quigley

About Aisling Quigley

Entrepreneur, mindfulness and meditation facilitator Aisling Quigley is on a mission is to positively impact the mental health of 1 million people over the next 10 years, through her corporate workshops, retreats, online meditation courses and community initiative, The Sunrise Collective.Working with world-leading brands like Kmart, Bunnings & Cystic Fibrosis Australia, Aisling shares evidence-based tools, practices, and concepts to help people find connection and community and transform their lives and wellbeing in meaningful, tangible ways.www.aislingquigley.com.au


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