We’ve spent months longing for life after lockdown. Getting beyond our four walls and feeling some sense of normalcy. But now that day has arrived… how do you feel about it?
For some of us there is the usual social anxiety that comes from being out of practice. But in New South Wales and Victoria, we’re facing life after lockdown for the first time under a COVID-19 vaccination policy rather than low case numbers. And some of us have noticed we're feeling worried about coming into contact with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Even if we’re fully vaccinated.
Going about our daily business while COVID is in the community has the potential to add an extra layer of considerations and vigilance to our daily tasks. While we all have different levels of concern about COVID and contracting it there's also the potential for interpersonal tension between us and loved ones, and even the neighbour we share the lift with.
Our behavioural scientist, Jillian Ryan, researches the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australians. She has some tips for how we can make life easier while we’re getting used to life after lockdown. And re-enter the social world.
While restrictions have eased, it doesn’t mean you need to rush straight out to your local pub or department store. All disruptions, like the COVID-19 pandemic, give us a chance to reset, reflect, and make decisions that align with our individual health and lifestyle circumstances.
Here are some tips if you are feeling worried as we come out of lockdown.
This is a great time to reset.
You might have heard the disaster recovery principle 'Build Back Better'. This means that when there is a major disaster or disruptive event, the main goal of recovery should not be to return to business as usual. The goal is to improve our previous ways of doing things. We can scrap what wasn’t great. And bring in new habits that serve us better.
You can enact this in your own life. Spend some time thinking about the changes that occurred during lockdown. Which ones do you want to keep and which ones you want to ditch? Here are some examples:
- Which commitments or obligations did you drop during lockdown that brought you more time for yourself and your family?
- What habits did you instil that made you feel good or help you to build better relationships in your community?
- Which unhelpful relationships were you able to let fade?
- What changes in your workplace had a positive impact?
Reflect on how you can continue to build these positive habits and relationships. And let go of negative ones of years past.
Focus on your Buckets of Control.
As lockdowns begin to ease, COVID-19 will increase in the community. It is completely normal to feel worried about this. Let’s think about categorising these worries into our buckets of control.
Bucket 1: Things you can control.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Being fully vaccinated (two doses) is highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalisation, and death if you catch COVID-19. Other steps you can take include wearing a mask, avoiding crowded or poorly ventilated areas, and washing your hands regularly. These measures will go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t catch COVID-19. And if you do, it won't become a serious health concern.
Bucket 2: Things you can influence, but don't have ultimate control over.
These include examples like family and friends’ behaviours and workplace agreements. You can encourage family and friends to get vaccinated and to take other COVID-safe precautions. However, the final decision is up to them.
Workplace arrangements are similar. You can have a serious conversation with your boss about your concerns and what you need to feel safe at work. However, you may be beholden to company policies. Problems in this bucket are often worth trying to change (e.g. having a hard conversation). While remembering that it is out of your hands at the end of the day.
Bucket 3: Things you have absolutely no control over.
Take it easy.
If you're feeling worried, then start slowly. This might involve going to places that have a lower risk of transmission. Heading outdoors to walk in national parks and forests. Taking part in outdoor activities like hiking, running or surfing.
Don’t commit to massive periods of time outside of your house, it is perfectly fine to come out slowly and steady. Where possible, try to go out with people that you like and trust. Don't feel guilty about leaving early or changing plans if you feel uncomfortable. Have a Plan B that considers what you will do if you do start to feel uncomfortable.
Worried about school?
We understand that a lot of parents are worried about sending young unvaccinated-age-group children back to childcare, early learning centres and school. This is a valid concern that again takes us back to our Buckets of Control.
Depending on age group, work circumstances, and vaccination accessibility, whether your kids go back to early learning or school before they can be vaccinated could be either a Bucket 1 or Bucket 2 decision.
However, you can make an informed decision. This means gathering the evidence and having conversations with relevant parties. First and foremost, reach out to the school and find out what their protocols are for preventing COVID-19. This might include questions like:
- What will happen if a teacher or student shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19?
- Are there contact tracing and quarantine rules if there is a risk or diagnosis of COVID-19 at the school?
- Which COVID-19 prevention strategies are in place?
- How will parents be updated and informed about changes to the rules or COVID-19 incidences?
Have conversations with close friends, family, and other people involved in your child’s development or care. Then make an informed decision about what you will do.
These tips have been suggested to help you to feel more in control of your life and health as you re-enter society. Remember that you can do it on your own terms. Remember to focus on things in your buckets of control while pushing to the side things that aren’t.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for us all. It's an evolving situation that will present manynewchanges. Acknowledge how well you’ve done so far. And when worries pop up check in with the buckets of control, be kind to yourself, and manage and mitigate what you can.