Psychologists on the 'fear' and 'anxiety' of emerging from lockdown
- Credit: Karen Bonthelius/irphotographyuk.com
Norfolk psychologists have warned of a period fraught with anxiety as lockdown restrictions are eased and rules such as social distancing come to an end.
England will take a major step towards normality on May 17, with indoor gatherings for up to six people or two households permitted again.
Restaurant and pub-goers can sit inside, while loved ones will be permitted to hug for the first time in more than a year.
But experts believe the raft of changes could present problems for those who do not feel ready to make such dramatic adjustments, especially in the wake of a deadly pandemic.
Karen Bonthelius, who runs Life Counselling Private Practice in Watton, said people had become "conditioned" to a new way of life.
She added: "We have been institutionalised for more than a year, so it's going to be strange when someone says 'you don't need to wear a mask anymore'.
"Some people have constantly been working from home and the prospect of going back creates huge anxiety. There is the thought of commuting and whether you are safe to even touch things in the office.
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"Others are wondering 'if I hug grandma, am I going to give her Covid?'
"Without realising, people might be stressed about little things, but they are subconscious anxieties."
But Mrs Bonthelius highlighted that the key was finding a coping mechanism in order to
"Take baby steps; be cautious," she said. "Go with what you are really feeling inside.
"Consider whether you are ready to go for that meal with friends. You will be allowed to, but because we are so conditioned it is natural to have doubts.
"I would look at the positives and ask 'what have you got to look forward to?'"
Julie de Ruiter, a Norwich-based therapist, said the months to come would be different for everyone.
"Some will relish getting back to normal, where as others are very fearful," added Mrs de Ruiter.
"The whole 'stay home, stay safe' messaging is problematic, because the whole antithesis of that is 'if you go out, you are not safe'.
"For some, the best strategy is having a bit of a plan in place about what you are going to do, and discussing it with friends and family."