If you're one of those people who is feeling apprehensive about when and how to venture out again, you’re not alone. Psychologists are referring to this new phenomenon as pandemic re-entry anxiety – the idea that, as society returns to something resembling pre-pandemic life, some of us are nervous about participating.  

Here are our top tips for managing the transition out of lockdown while protecting your mental health.

At the onset of the pandemic, many of us prioritised looking after our mental health and wellbeing at home. You may have started cooking more, eating healthily or exercising daily. Now you’re going back out into the world, it’s important that you continue to prioritise self-care; including exercise, a healthy diet, sleep and sticking with any hobbies or interests you started during the restrictions. 

Rather than diving headfirst back into things and trying to make up for lost time, experts recommend that you ease yourself back into your "normal" life. Taking small steps over time is one of the most effective treatments for re-entry anxiety.

Add activities and habits back into your routine at a pace that feels comfortable for you. For example, you could start with a walk on your own in the park, then try chatting with a friend from your window, and finally meeting outside for a coffee together. When you’re comfortable with that, make it two friends. And so on.

It’s important not to judge yourself based on what others are doing and to allow yourself time to get back into the swing of things. Adapting to the end of lockdown will likely take as long as it took you to adapt at the start of lockdown. 

Many friends and family members have stayed apart during lockdown. Seeing your loved ones face to face is a great way to boost wellbeing, and is particularly important if you’ve been cocooning alone, but you might find it feels strange at first.

If it’s been a while since you met other people, and you feel unsure about it, try having a trial run with one person to build up your confidence, if the rules in your area allow this. Discussing the steps you’ll take beforehand can help reassure you – for example, how far apart you’ll sit, whether you’ll wear a face covering, and if you’ll avoid touching shared surfaces.

Try practising ten minutes of mindfulness everyday by clearing your mind and tuning into all of your senses. Meditation, breathing exercises, music, yoga, an audio book or even a quiet bath can help rest your mind and relieve anxiety and stress.
Think about what you have missed the most the past year. Is it family and friends? Live music? Going to the store instead of having things delivered? Creating a post-pandemic bucket list is a great way to shift your thinking from what you’re anxious about to the positive experiences that could be waiting for you. Your bucket list doesn’t have to be extravagant or adventurous; it can be as simple as booking a hair or nail appointment or a meal al fresco in your favourite restaurant.  

Remember that fear and anxiety are natural emotional responses as we approach the end of lockdown. After so long in quarantine, it's normal to feel some anxiety about restrictions easing. This is a very unusual time, filled with uncertainty and it’s ok to be feeling anxious. Understand that your feelings are natural, normal, and shared by many.

Just as it took time for you to adapt to a new way of living during lockdown, it may take some time to adapt to life changing again.

Allianz Care is here to support you – our mission is to keep you well, wherever you are in the world.

About the author

Paula Covey

CMO Health, Allianz Partners

Paula Covey is responsible for marketing Allianz Partners’ international health business under the Allianz Care, NextCare and Medi24 brands, as well as for helping to achieve Allianz Partners group’s ambitious plans to grow health activities and services across all of its lines of business, as Allianz Partners’ Chief Marketing Officer for Health.

Throughout her career, Paula has held a series of senior and director level global roles within marketing, market development, product development and operations.

Paula joined the company from Allianz Global Life & Health where she was Head of Global Health. She brings with her over 30 years of experience in healthcare, 20 of which were in international health.