It’s still okay to not feel okay Written by division E psychologist, Amy Brown.

With the recent announcement of the roadmap for England, there is a lot of understandable excitement and hope. However, feelings of increased anxiety and uncertainty are also understandable.

Lockdown has been tough for everyone in different ways, and as healthcare staff, you’ve likely been directly or indirectly exposed to the real need for the lockdown through your work. Lockdown, whilst tough, provides us with very clear boundaries and rules on how to keep each other, and ourselves, safe. It is therefore understandable if you find yourself feeling anxious as well, or instead of, excited about the easing of restrictions. This anxiety is a normal human reaction to the introduction of further unknowns after an incredibly difficult and exhausting year. Whilst lockdown can be uncomfortable, it can also generate a sense of safety and predictability that might now start to feel challenged.

Therefore, it’s important to not expect more from yourself just because the societal narrative might be “that things are going to start getting easier”. It may be that you are looking forward to being able to see more of family and friends and children and young people being able to go back to school. We may expect these new relative freedoms to give us some more energy, and hopefully they will! However, it’s also important to recognise the energy that it takes to do things that make us feel anxious, which is how we might be feeling over the next few weeks and months as the country takes steps out of lockdown.

Similarly, it can feel strange, but if and when things start to get less busy, less stressful and less pressured, you may find yourself feeling more anxious, more stressed and less able to do things. Again, this is normal and to be expected after a chronic period of stress. During the last 12 difficult months, your mind and body has likely managed to keep going due to the stress hormones that the situation has continued to stimulate. This is a survival response and it is exhausting. Therefore, when the situation allows for your stress hormones to reduce, it is likely that you may start feeling the full effects of the past 12 months and your mind and body will need rest. This may feel frustrating as you may not want to rest, and others around you may have different levels of energy and enthusiasm, or have different expectations to how you feel.

This is not a time to expect any more of yourself, it is time to take stock and listen to what your mind and body is telling you that it needs. We have all have been affected in such different ways so there is no right and wrong; but being kind, gentle and caring of yourself and giving yourself time to adjust are paramount.