10 Aug 2021
Reopening Anxiety and Tips for Self-Isolation
Our so-called Freedom Day arrived on the 19th of July. Alongside feelings of euphoria, freedom and exhilaration was concern, fear and anxiety, coming in the midst of a drastic uptick in cases.
These concerns are far-ranging – the obvious one is the increased risk of catching COVID, with masks indoors and social distancing optional. Many of you may have returned home, increasing your interaction with parents, grandparents and other at-risk loved ones. FOMO is a big issue too, whether you’re at home away from friends, or choose to forego certain plans.
Many of us will still be in the transitory stage between interacting mainly with close friends and family and having to interact more with strangers, be it at a party or in-person jobs. This comes with a fair share of nervousness or outright anxiety for many. But socialising is like a muscle, and we can all appreciate that muscles atrophy with disuse. It is entirely normal for our social batteries to drain quicker than pre-pandemic times and for feelings of anxiousness to surface. As one psychology professor put it, “any time you’re out of practice with something (like engaging in face-to-face interactions, being in a crowded space), it’s normal to feel anxious. Anxiety is just your body’s way of alerting you to pay attention to your environment — which is natural when you’re re-learning how to engage in social contexts.” (1)
What to Do
Ease your way into a state of comfort. It’s alright to turn down a plan, but that’s easier to say, harder to do. Suggesting alternatives, such as meeting outdoors in a park, or choosing to leave early, are potential compromises. A more long-term approach is to set boundaries for yourself, such as going to pubs but not clubs, or going to busy areas or venues only during off-peak hours.
Focus on what you can control: wearing your mask, socially distancing, walking through a quieter street if necessary, avoiding crowded areas. The risk may increase with the easing of restrictions, but you can definitely minimise it.
What you may be feeling is not uncommon. Being the one to be open about your feelings may result in a similar sentiment expressed by others. People will be at different stages of cautiousness, and this goes for those who are excited about the return to normality. Our level of comfort can be variable, even on a day-to-day basis. What matters is that you enjoy when you are comfortable, whilst staying safe (let lateral flows be your best friend), and you take a step back when you’re not.
And for those of us forced into self-isolation, we have some tips!
- Try to stick to a routine so that you still have a structure to each day and things to look forward to. You can even be creative with your days and try a new skill that you would never otherwise have had the time for. A routine will help the days flow by too.
- Frequently stay in contact with friends/family virtually throughout your isolation period
- Take time away from screens and make sure you are still getting fresh air and sunshine from your windows
- Remember to stay active - try activities such as yoga or online workouts, UCL student wellbeing are running frequent virtual activities that students can book.
- Be kind to yourself and take care of your health - ensure you are eating well and drinking plenty of fluids.
- Although self-isolation is difficult, remember that you are doing this to protect yourself and other people, and your isolation period will be over soon.
Remember, it’s absolutely normal to feel discomfort as the country opens up. Feel free to reach out to a committee member or one of our peer navigators if you do want to chat. Sending lots of love to all of you - we hope you are having a wonderful summer and staying safe!