18 August 2021
The last eighteen months or so has been a rollercoaster ride for all of us, some of us may have coped better than others and some of us may have struggled a bit more, but we’ve all had unusual and unique challenges to face throughout the various lockdowns. Now that things are beginning to get back to normal, or are at least moving closer in the general direction of life pre-COVID, we’re faced with a whole bunch of new challenges to face. One of the biggest ones in this regard is what psychologists are calling ‘reopening anxiety’. But what is reopening anxiety and what can we do to help cope with it if we’re struggling.
The prospect of going to a busy social event, returning back to work in an office, travelling on holiday or even just shopping in a supermarket that’s busier than it’s been for a long time can bring a range of emotions. Excitement, fear, nervousness – it’s normal to feel things like this when faced with the prospect of change but when negative feelings like anxiety start to overwhelm you and affect what decisions you make day to day it can be difficult to cope.
One of the most important things to recognise is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to do things you don’t yet feel comfortable with just because you see others doing so or because friends and colleagues are taking part. You need to move at your own pace and if that means that you aren’t socialising or going out much right now then friends, colleagues or family should respect this. However, we also know that it’s not easy to avoid the social pressure that might come from around you and sometimes we’ll have to face situations that make us anxious. That’s why we’ve put together a few short tips and exercises that you can try to help manage any anxiety you might be struggling with as more and more of society reopens following relaxations in the coronavirus restrictions.
Our first technique is simple, but also really effective. The first step is to become aware of your own breathing by placing one hand on your chest and one hand flat on your stomach. Often when we’re feeling anxious our breathing speeds up and that’s normal but with practice you can learn to control it. Triangle breathing is named because when we think of the rhythm, we want to breath in we think of the shape of a triangle, we breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 (that’s one side), hold for a count of four (the second side of the triangle) and then slowly exhale through our mouths for a count of four (the third side of the triangle and bringing us back to the start). Next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, try this. Become aware of your breathing, then using the triangle breathing technique try to slow it down and see if you feel a bit more calm and in control. You can practice this technique by following along with one of our counsellors, Stephanie, in the video below.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
To help relieve stress, relax your body and clear your thoughts you can try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, a calming exercise that you can practice at home, at work or when you need to take a moment while out and about. While making sure you breathe slowly, notice 5 things you can see around you, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. By focusing on the present and using your five senses in this way you can ground yourself in the present moment and begin to feel calmer. There is a great video explanation of this technique by one of our counsellors, Urte, in the video below.
Create Your Own ‘Happy Place’
This is another technique you can use if you’re feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed by the current situation but instead of focusing on the present, we use a visualisation to help us feel calm and relaxed. The key to successfully creating your own ‘happy place’ is once again to focus on your senses and instead of just picturing somewhere where you feel safe and calm you actually try to recreate that place in your mind. For example, if your ‘happy place’ was a beach, you would hear the waves, smell the saltwater and feel the sand between your toes. By recreating your ‘happy place’ in as much detail as you can it’s possible to bring the sense of calm and safety you feel there into the present moment. You can also practice this technique alongside one of our therapists, Anna, in the video below.
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