Coming Out of Lockdown
In order to get an expert take on the effects of lockdown on practitioners, this week That Nursery Life once again chatted to Dr Sarah Mundy from Amicus Psychology. Sarah is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who specialises in working with children and families. She is also the author of the Parenting Through Stories books.
As practitioners, our main work priority is to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of our Early Years. However, the past year has affected us all and it’s important to acknowledge and address the effect it has had on us as adults.
The evidence we have so far from children is that their mental health has been impacted by Covid-19, and it’s likely this will be the same for adults. As well as the general anxiety caused by routines, structure and plans being disrupted, there are more specific anxieties. These can range from concerns about germs and health to socialising and being in crowds. There is also more general stress around the risk (or reality) of losing jobs for some people, as well as stresses in relationships (in 2020 there was a significant increase in reports of domestic abuse) and the increased likelihood of having to grieve the loss of someone close.
So, as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, the first thing we need to think about is our own feelings. The fact is that, in order to manage our feelings, we need to know what they are. It can help to reflect on how you’re feeling, as well as the impact of lockdown on you. It’s common to want to dismiss these feelings or think they’re invalid, but they are completely normal anxieties to have after over a year of adversity and stress. Be kind to yourself.
"It's been a tough year for everyone and, whilst there is a desire to return to "normal" we may have forgotten what it looks like! Many people are feeling stressed and it's not surprising that starting to venture out is giving rise to increased social and health anxiety for some. Take things slowly, notice what you are feeling, don't judge it - it is understandable and normal to feel stressed about forthcoming changes, even if they are likely to result in more positive experiences. Try not to avoid situations which make you feel worried - this can only increase anxiety, but build yourself up bit by bit. It may feel safer to start with small groups or outside meetings than going full steam ahead into a public space with lots of people around (when that's allowed). Try to talk to others about what you are feeling and ask for help if you need it". Dr Sarah Mundy
It will be helpful to consider what has helped you with anxiety or stressful situations before. Rely on tried and tested coping mechanisms if you need them. But also don’t try to “sort yourself out” all at once. Anxiety is a tricky thing; if you avoid it it gets worse, but trying to tackle it all at once can also be detrimental. Address your worries and anxieties by what you’re feeling uncomfortable with now, where you eventually want to get to and how you can start dealing with this is a gradual way. If things you used to enjoy, such as busy shopping centres or parties, now sound incredibly stressful, start small. Aim for short visits with a few friends and only progress onto larger groups once you can handle it.
Neuroscientist Dan Siegel has developed the Healthy Mind Platter. This approach specifies the areas we need to focus on in order to help our brain be in the most balanced state possible. These areas include Focus Time (spending time on one thing, such as reading a book, with no distractions), Connecting Time (connecting with people) and Play Time (engaging in fun, light-hearted activities). Spending time using tools like this to help your brain feel more balanced will help to alleviate some anxiety; even if the worries are still there, a calmer mind and body will mean you’re better prepared for dealing with them.
Overall, give yourself time. Not being prepared to plunge back into the pace of life you had before the pandemic is not a failing but, rather, a valid response to the collective trauma the entire world has experienced. Regardless of how quickly (or not) lockdown measures are lifted, make sure you give yourself room to go at a slower pace if you need to, to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible when you start getting back to normal.