Category Archives: Covid-19

Is post-covid Freedom leaving people feeling imprisoned by fear?

July 19th in England was dubbed “Freedom Day” by the media, and the population counted down with excitement to a day when all the restrictions that were put in place because of the Covid pandemic were lifted.

It’s been over a week, schools have broken up for summer, and people are jumping (or tentatively creeping?) into travel, visiting friends and family, gathering in groups and returning to something like the normal we had before.

Opinions are very divided – but Government have decided to continue with their planned ‘Freedoms’, though scientists advised against it, and with the NHS already thinly stretched, many people are very concerned about their safety moving forward, and about another wave impacting our lives once again.

With no restrictions we are jumping for the first time in well over a year to freedom of travel, people visiting friends and family, bars and clubs re-opening, shopping without masks, gathering in large numbers without the need to social distance. All of those steps we took to protect ourselves and those in our communities are gone, and the gradual adjustment we all made to safety and isolation has been swept away.

For some this ‘all in one’ approach is daunting; moving from a mind-set where we avoid others, cancel social plans, don’t attend gatherings, wear masks and keep our distance, and carefully plan grocery trips to avoid big groups and get things delivered where we can to…total freedom? It’s just too much at once. Sensory overload, combined with anxiety when we face groups of un-masked strangers.

Families and friends have spent months aching to get together, to hug, to celebrate, to enjoy time in groups and to share affections and events. Now that we can, some are still too nervous to do so, still holding onto the idea that there’s danger in meeting.

Most worrying is that it’s true; the virus hasn’t disappeared, the vaccine rollout has slowed down, the new Delta variant is impacting younger people who were initially safe, and the numbers show active cases growing again.

Despite this, people are eager to return to work, to see their loved ones, to prop up the economy, which continues to be significantly impacted, and to believe that it’s safe to hug those they’ve not seen for many months. Loneliness, anxiety, lost work and the draining exhaustion of long-term stress have seen many of us ‘hit the wall’ – and though we are all eager to ‘get back to normal’ it’s hard to ignore the mixed messages and bombardment of opinions on social media.

If you are nervous, and struggling to know what the guidelines are post “freedom day” remember that there is no blanket rule; that there is no one right answer. The steps you take now depend entirely on your situation and how ready you are feeling to change the way you’ve adapted to this pandemic.

Lockdown proved that a great many jobs can, in fact, be successfully performed from home – so many employers are looking to adapt a more flexible structure for their teams. This is likely to improve mental health and the work/life balance of many working people. Mental health is a topic that has become more normalised to speak about, meaning that people are finding it easier to speak about the struggles they are facing with their own mental health. Again, this has seen a lot of employers giving more support and focus to the mental and emotional wellbeing of their teams, and supporting their needs.

Lockdown also showed that community support is absolutely vital – and that won’t disappear overnight; there will be others in your area who still need support, and who are willing to offer that support, if you need it.

The fact that we can now meet in large groups, go to events, ignore social distancing and bin the masks doesn’t mean that you have to do those things if you don’t feel ready.

You can continue to be wary of large gatherings, to wear masks when you’re indoors, to only meet friends outside if you don’t feel ready to take more steps quite yet.

It took us over a year to be in the position we are now; to adjust to the restrictions, change our routines, make plans that took more care and offered more awareness to the vulnerable in our lives.

An arbitrary date of “freedom” doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the things that made you feel safe throughout this pandemic – and you don’t need to bow to pressure to ‘get back to normal’ until you feel it’s safe for you to do so.

If you are struggling with anxiety around the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the huge changes of ‘Freedom Day’ and perhaps pressure from people in your life to overstep boundaries you need to feel safe, you don’t need to cope alone or ignore your instincts; I can help you to process the anxiety and depression you may be experiencing, to face the wealth of conflicting emotions you’ve ridden the waves of since Covid first hit the UK, and to focus on the ways in which you are safe, and how to stay feeling so even as things continue to change.

You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. to speak about what support you think you’d benefit from.

 

 

Anxiety as lockdown lifts in the UK

 The date is marked on our calendars, and social media channels are full of talk about ‘freedom’, about getting back to social lives, meeting friends in pubs and bars, hitting the shops and getting together with friends and family after many months of isolation.

Understandably a lot of people are very excited, and counting the days down until they can see people again and pick up the pieces of a life we had to drop so suddenly and unexpectedly when the pandemic first began to impact our lives.

But the past 12 months have seen a huge increase in reports of anxiety, depression, mental health difficulties and health problems unrelated to the virus. The pressure of worry about loved ones, about the outside world being rife with dangers, about an invisible enemy we needed to be on constant alert for, and the isolation of being forced to stay home alone will have a knock-on impact on people’s wellbeing for years to come.

It’s no surprise that a great many people are also reporting that leaving lockdown is making them more anxious than being locked down ever did. Stepping back into the world, entering crowded public spaces and being physically close to strangers in those spaces once again feels dangerous, and carries the weight of all the many warnings we’ve had to heed.

The worry that we are putting our health at risk, or that of the people we come into contact with, is one which will take longer to shake off than it took to pick up.

Living through a pandemic means that we have all been functioning in ‘survival mode’ – and our bodies have been running on a higher than usual level of adrenaline and cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone. This is vital in emergency situations, giving us the clarity and quick responses that could save us from danger, and is a remnant of the prehistoric world we originated from. However, as a lasting and long-term situation this causes damage to our physical health, as well as keeping our brain functioning on a limited, reactive plane. That reactive state means that we aren’t able to be creative, relaxed free or engaged with the world around us in the way we ordinarily would. We are alert at all times, leaving us exhausted and irritable. We are shorter tempered, less patient, less able to enjoy the things that used to bring us peace and joy.

As you are preparing for the time you’ll leave lockdown, and make plans to see loved ones and meet in public places again, don’t feel pressured to jump right in (or out!) and to move fully from the life you’ve adjusted to, to the way things were before. Listen to your body and the instinctive reactions you have to each situation, and though I would never want you to ‘live in fear’ you can trust that you can take things slowly, adjust over time, and introduce new routines one at a time. Meeting some friends doesn’t have to mean a huge gathering, it can be coffee and a walk with one or two, somewhere secluded. Re-entering public spaces can be done carefully. Even the return to work can be managed gradually – and the proven success of remote working is likely to remain an option, at least part time, for most industries.

Frankly, nothing ever will be ‘the same it was before’ because the world has been changed permanently by the impact this pandemic has had on us.

Many of these changes are positive – the flexibility of remote working, the reduced pressure for face-to-face meetings which include travel, expense and high-stress timescales being switched for video conferencing, more autonomy in our working schedules and workloads.

I have also seen a massive public outpouring of kindness, community spirit and small gestures of love between strangers throughout the pandemic. These small moments – artwork in windows, applause on doorsteps, colourful painted stones in public parks – bring light to so many lives, and smiles to so very many faces. It has warmed my heart to see these little, thoughtful events over the past year, and I know that it has helped others too.

Kindness is a hugely important factor in any life – and it’s something I will remind you to treat yourself with as you ready yourself to leave lockdown.

Patience, kindness and love. Listen to your inner voice. Let your instinct for preservation guide and protect you, and remember the lessons we have all learned; take care of family and neighbours, protect your own needs, focus on the positives.

If you need support for any anxiety or negative thoughts that you’ve been battling in recent weeks and months, please don’t suffer or struggle alone. I can help. Contact me today to set up an initial consultation, and let’s discuss how I can help to make those burdens lighter, and open you up to the full potential of your best life.

You can contact me through my Facebook page, through this website, email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can call, message or WhatsApp me on my mobile on 07849 037095

 

Grief vs Loss

Grief and loss – particularly now – need to be treated as equals.

Often the words grief and loss are used interchangeably – people use both when they speak about the grief of losing a loved one, a family member, a friend and even a pet – but there are some differences between the two which mean they should be approached differently.

Grief is what we feel when there is a bereavement – when someone or something dies, and we are left reeling with a sequence of different emotions and reactions, varying states, which take us from the initial shock through to, eventually, acceptance, and the state where we are able to continue with our lives bearing the scars of this grief.

Loss is different – and applies to far more than reacting to a death. Loss is a similar sequence of emotions, of reactions, of processes – but for different events.

One clear example currently is the loss of our freedom and social lives, as we are all encouraged to remain at home during the Coronavirus situation.

The impact of this ‘lockdown’ means that we are, as a nation – as a world population – facing significant losses. Of work, of income, of routine, of social interaction and confidence in our lives. Of education and training. Of comfort and security.

We are seeing overwhelming news reports, feeling fear and anxiety, and limited to interacting only with the people within our homes – which, for a great many, is just them alone – or, for some, is with people who are controlling or abusive – meaning that they have also lost their opportunities to escape those dangers or recover outside of the home from the traumatic environment.

Where ‘loss’ is disregarded is when people begin to compare their loss with those of others. For some, the loss of routine means they can relax, sit back and indulge in whatever whim takes their fancy. For others, the loss of routine creates enormous anxiety and pain.

For some, the loss of freedom to leave the house is merely inconvenient, and for others it means they are incredibly isolated, or even in danger.

Loss – no matter what it is you are losing – is not something which can be compared. Pain and loss aren’t weighed on a scale – and if we always compare, there will always be someone who has experienced something ‘worse’ or who hasn’t experienced a reality as damaging as ours – which is why we ought never to dismiss the responses to loss that another feels.

The truth of pain is that the worst pain you have ever experienced is the worst pain you have ever experienced. The greatest loss that has impacted you is your greatest loss. These are not things we should ever compare to those of others – because dismissing or disregarding other people’s pain, or allowing people to do the same to ours, prevents us from being able to find coping mechanisms in a healthy way.

Loss – whether on a global scale, or of a small, domestic routine which brings you peace – is painful – and the only way that we are able to move through it, process it, and take the steps through the stages of emotional response is by voicing our struggles, supporting one another in difficult times, and reaching out for support when we need it.

Grief is what we experience in response to a death – but loss is no less significant, and the pain we feel in response to loss can be overwhelming and can impact the shape of our lives permanently, particularly if we somehow believe that our pain is insignificant, or if it is belittled by others.

Remember that now is not a time to increase the pressure on yourself to do or be anything more than who you are; a global pandemic is a time to give yourself space to just be – to survive, to focus on your needs – physically and emotionally – without worrying about achieving more, setting goals, growing or creating.

Now is a time to simply meet your basic needs, and to let other concerns take a back seat: this graphic is a great reminder.

If you are struggling with the losses I’ve discussed here, or are in need of a safe place to speak about worries and fears, or the current situation has brought previous trauma to the surface, please don’t suffer alone.

You can speak to me any time – simply fill in the contact form or send me a message on Facebook or via call or text on 07849 037095; I am doing all of my counselling sessions via WhatsApp video calls, so that you can still speak ‘face to face’ and receive support, and don’t have to sit with your head full of concerns you have nowhere to voice.