Lockdown easing is a tricky subject, and one we’d never have imagined having to deal with just a couple of years ago.
For some, lockdown easing means party time, and a chance to get back to “normal.” For others, it is a huge source of stress and anxiety. It’s no wonder that it’s a subject with the ability to divide people – on everything from when lockdown easing should happen, to HOW it should happen.
In this article, we look at how best to deal with lockdown easing – whether you’re eager for it, or anxious and apprehensive. We discuss how to stay safe and sane, and how to help those around you do the same.
I’m writing this article in the UK during July 2021. It’s been confirmed that in a week’s time the government will lift all remaining Covid restrictions, although they are still “advising” various precautions around things like mask wearing and social distancing.
I’m keen to steer away from politics in this post, but the UK government is doing this against a backdrop of rapidly rising case rates, and with (rather staggering) acceptance that the lockdown easing will result in many additional deaths. As such, it’s unsurprising that 50% of people don’t actually want the restrictions to end, with 66% saying they will continue to wear masks in shops despite it no longer being mandatory.
As I said, lockdown easing is a tricky subject, and one that’s causing considerable stress to many. This article hopes to ease that stress as much as possible.
How to Deal With Lockdown Easing
1. Understand That Lockdown Easing is Not the Same for Everyone
Much as some people would like to believe it, the Covid-19 pandemic is not over at the time of writing. The virus, along with its different variants, continues to spread across the world.
We may be talking about lockdown easing here in the UK right now, but other countries are going back into lockdown at the same time. Rumours are already starting to swell about when it may become necessary for the UK to lock down again.
So, on a global level, we’re not all experiencing this pandemic in sync. Different countries, and sometimes even different towns and cities, are experiencing different restrictions and challenges at different times.
Similarly, the experience is very varied for different individuals. A fit and healthy 25 year old whose had two vaccinations might be very excited about lockdown easing, but you can hardly expect an immunocompromised pensioner who’s unable to have a jab to feel the same way.
The key thing here is EMPATHY. Everybody has experienced this pandemic in a different way. Some have been fortunate enough not to lose anybody to Covid; Others have seen their family decimated; Some spent much of 2020 moving between a well-appointed home office and a garden; Others – retail, transport and emergency workers, for example – were out there in the thick of it throughout, perhaps having to return to a small flat each day.
The past 18 months have been mind-blowingly difficult for everybody, but way harder for some. In some cases that’s down to privilege, but in many it’s down to nothing more than fate, location and circumstance.
The first step to handling lockdown easing the right way is to put yourself in the shoes of others.
2. Recognise What You Can and Can’t Control
Surveys suggest that more than half of people are anxious about lockdown easing. I think it’s reasonable to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re among that number.
So let’s look at something really important: recognising what you can and can’t control.
First off, you can’t control government policy (much to my dismay!) You can’t tweet your way to a safer country, and you can’t make restrictions start or end to fit your life circumstances.
You can’t control other people. You can’t force other people to wear masks, or to believe in science.
Next are the things you have only limited control over: I can’t control when my children are mandated to be at school and nursery. I can coach them on distancing and hygiene, but I can’t control what they actually do. I certainly have no control over the kind of virus exposure the least sensible of their peers’ families may be allowing.
Work is another area where you may have limited control. I’m lucky enough to be home-based, but you may well have a job that requires you to be “out there” – whether you feel safe or not.
This all paints a rather grim picture, but the key point is that railing against the things you CAN’T change does absolutely nothing to make it easier to cope with lockdown easing. It’s a waste of your time, your energy and your resolve.
Here’s the good news: You CAN control how much risk you subject yourself and your family to – beyond those work and education settings mentioned above.
Yes, it’s depressing that this may mean avoiding settings and activities that other people are enjoying – due to a lower level of actual or perceived risk. But you DO have control over this.
Here are some examples of how you can make use of that control:
- Only participating in social activities where you feel safe.
- Socialising at your own home, on your own terms.
- Timing shopping and outings for quieter times when you feel (and likely are) safer.
- Continuing to be proactive about hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing.
Endless internal discussion about the fairness of all of this will achieve nothing. It makes far more sense to assess what choices you do have, and then make some plans (hopefully some inspiring plans) based on them.
3. Respect Other People’s Boundaries – And Your Own
You are allowed to say “no.”
Just because the rest of your “group” wants to eat inside a crowded restaurant, you don’t have to. You have the right to suggest you take an outside table instead, or to not go at all if that’s not an option.
If people choose to take umbrage at your choices, that’s their problem and not yours. As we’ve discussed, everybody has had a different and highly nuanced experience of this pandemic. Surely it’s better to dedicate your time to the people who empathise with you than those who don’t? It seems likely those people aren’t the best to have around you at a time of intense stress anyway!
Obviously it’s important to see this from the other side too. You may have friends who are more at risk than you, who may welcome the opportunity to do some “safe” socialising – perhaps a picnic in the park rather than the normal afternoon session in the pub.
These are complicated and unusual waters to navigate. Who’d have thought – two years ago – that families would be having long and complex conversations about how to approach a party or a meal out, trying to balance their own feeling of safety with the fear of upsetting friends and family with differing views?
But – in reality – it usually works out OK. It’s best to be assertive and make your boundaries clear. I’ve personally been very direct with people, saying things like “no, I’m sorry, I’m just not comfortable with that yet.” Everybody has understood, and those that refuse to are probably not worth your time.
4. Take Things Slowly
One thing that has really surprised me since lockdown easing began a few months ago is how draining normal things can now feel.
I’ve discussed this with others, and – without exception – they feel the same. The science backs it up too.
The lesson here is that there’s no need to rush out there and do everything all at once. After being locked down, we’ve enjoyed some really simple things – short play dates for the children, walks with friends, or a single drink outside a café. These things can feel special and new, so why would you want to rush back to the point where they just feel mundane again?
So try not to rush and – even more importantly- don’t allow yourself to be rushed. It’s not your job to rebuild the economy, and it’s certainly not your duty to do everything at the pace your government or your friends set.
Whenever lockdown easing is mentioned, it’s clear that many people are impatient to “get back to normal.” But there are plenty of us who’d rather learn from the pandemic experience: less rush, less hustle, perhaps fewer of those nights out that we only turn up for out of politeness!
If people want to follow the herd, that’s up to them – but you don’t have to join them. Nobody is ever 100% safe, but there are some things you can control. Upsetting though it is to see plenty of governments and individuals learn nothing from the tragic recent events, it doesn’t mean you can’t.
Stay well and stay safe.