Lockdown restrictions continue to ease, but many people still feel worried or anxious. Here, Richard Brown, Professor of Neuropsychology and Clinical Neuroscience, talks about how to navigate the new normal if you are feeling anxious.
There was a certainty about lockdown – stay at home, wash your hands regularly and practise social distancing if you did have to go out. Our brains quickly became trained to spot risks and danger around us, even when we were safe at home. As the guidelines changed, you may have found it hard to switch off these new habits.
So, how do you navigate this transition period? Nothing we do in life is entirely risk free. It is a constant balancing act between minimising unnecessary risks while still doing the things that we need or want to do.
So it’s important we find a balance between taking sensible precautions and being able to enjoy the things in life that are important for our physical or mental wellbeing, such as meeting a friend or going for a walk.
If you are feeling unsettled, taking things slowly can help...You will find it gets easier over time.
The first thing to remember is that the easing of restrictions just means you have a few more options and opportunities to go out and meet other people. It is up to you what you want to start doing, when and how often. And all of the previous guidelines about social distancing and handwashing still apply.
If you are feeling unsettled, taking things slowly can help. For example, try a short walk either alone or with another person. Choose quiet times and keep it brief to start with, but don't leave it too long between outings. Aim to do something everyday. You will find it gets easier over time.
While you are out, you may who aren’t observing social distancing guidelines. This might seem inconsiderate and you might feel angry. But these feelings are unlikely to change a situation and can make you feel more stressed. It’s important to remember we can’t control other people’s behaviour and you should avoid using this as a reason not to go out.
4 steps for managing risk and anxiety
When we are anxious we tend to magnify the threat. We become over-cautious and try to avoid situations that might seem risky. At the moment, this may mean avoiding leaving home or coming into contact with other people.
Below are 4 tips which you can use to look at the risk in a scenario, manage your anxiety around it and ultimately, enjoy some of the new freedom we are being given.
Think carefully about what it is that you want to do – whether it is a small family gathering, inviting a single friend for tea in the garden, going for a walk in the park or a picnic in the country.
- Can you do this in a way that allows you to follow the current social distancing guidelines?
- Is there anything that you can do make following guidelines easier, such as choosing a quiet place and time?
- Will you and the person you are meeting be able to wash your hands or use hand-gel regularly?
Are you meeting one person or several? The fewer the number of people you meet, the smaller the risk. If you are meeting others outside of your household, think about their own situation and behaviour. You may feel safer meeting some people rather than others.
- Have they been shielding?
- Are they the sort of person who has been careful to follow the guidelines?
- Are they the sort of person who would be careful if they came into your home, and not mind if you reminded them to wash their hands?
Evidence suggest that the risk of catching coronavirus is linked to the amount of time that you are in contact with someone who has the infection.
If you are planning to go out, are you likely to be in close contact with another person without other precautions, such as social distancing, for more than a few minutes? If contact is fleeting, such as a stranger that you pass on the pavement, the risk is low.
As restrictions ease, make sure you know what the latest medical advice and guidelines are.
If you have any questions about the guidelines, speak to a trusted source like your GP or Parkinson's nurse.
Or you can contact the Parkinson’s UK helpline (0808 800 0303 or email [email protected]).
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