I feel anxious about leaving lockdown and it's okay if you do too

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

11th March 2021

By Alina Khan

Last month we finally were given a glimmer of hope from Boris Johnson as he announced how he would be getting the UK out of lockdown. I had never been so happy to hear our PM speak in my life as my housemates and I listened to how and when we’d be getting our freedom back. The fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is a relieving feeling that I’m sure most of us will be experiencing.

Two weeks since the announcement and festivals across the country have sold out in minutes, holiday bookings have soared and pubs have begun preparing to open back up their doors. I couldn’t believe that me and my friends were even talking about going out. It felt surreal after being deprived of a proper social life for nearly a year. It got me thinking, will I remember how to talk to actual living, breathing people? How am I going to handle being in social situations? I am someone who could talk to anyone about anything. I am far from shy, but being cut off from the normal and real world for so long, it makes me wonder if we’ll be able to just pick up from where we left off. I’d like to hope that it will be easy to dive straight back into normal life and it’ll be like flicking back on a switch. But the world has changed and I as a person have definitely changed since the last time I was living care free.

I’ve found that I’m not the only one with these feelings. Many people my age are experiencing anxieties when thinking about reintegrating back into society. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to be in certain social situations because of this pandemic and we’ll be throwing ourselves straight back into them come June 21st. I can tell it's going to be an overwhelming and somewhat anxious experience as we journey full steam ahead into a very busy summer. There seems to already be this mounting pressure that we need to be doing something every day of the summer season because we have to make up for so much lost time. Pubs, brunches, holidays, festivals, raves my list is getting longer by the day (and my bank balance smaller) and yet I still feel like I’m not doing enough. I don’t want to take for granted the freedom we’re being given because these are some of my prime years, as people say, and I’ve already wasted a year of it but at the same time, am I going to be able to handle it, emotionally, physically, mentally? This summer we’re going to be living some unforgettable moments but at the same time we need to take a minute, step back, breathe and take it all in because we’re going to be experiencing emotions we probably haven’t experienced in a year or never experienced therefore we need to be able to take it in our stride.

As I mentioned earlier the world has changed since we were last properly living in it and as people, we’ve changed but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. As much as I’m nervous and anxious to be let loose and granted a proper social life, we need to remember how much we’ve overcome and how much stronger it's made us. If, like me, you're worried about how you’re going to be able to interact with people face-to-face after so much time just remember, that we’ve spent nearly a year taking online university classes via zoom or having Microsoft Teams meetings at work and we managed to overcome that with all its problems and awkwardness. So yes, at first, socially interacting with large groups of people may be a bit daunting but over time we’ll become used to it again and the awkward silences we used to experience on Zoom will be a distant memory.

This pandemic has been all about looking after ourselves mentally and physically. And with the finishing line now in sight, we can’t wait to be around our friends and family again but we also shouldn’t forget to take time out, now and again to make sure that we’re still doing ok and taking care of ourselves. It’s easy to neglect yourself sometimes when you’re caught up in the moment and I can only begin to imagine what these next few hectic months have in store for me but the one thing that this pandemic has taught me is that if you’re not happy with yourself mentally and physically, nothing or anyone will be able to change that.

So yes, I will be making this a summer to remember and yes, I will probably be feeling anxious and overwhelmed to start with but these are all normal feelings to have when experiencing situations we are no longer used to anymore. But we were able to adapt and overcome everything the pandemic threw at us when it locked us in and we’ll do exactly the same when we’ll be let out.

Enjoy this summer as much as you can because there won’t be one like it again. Although we will no longer be spending a lot of time alone make sure to take some time for yourself to process it all so you can truly be happy. Remember there is no rush, take this summer as slow or as fast as you like we’re all different and handle situations differently, do what feels comfortable for you because after the year we’ve had we deserve to no longer feel sad, uncomfortable, anxious or stressed. It’s okay to want to stay in and have a night to yourself!

Life is going back to normal and soon enough we’ll be able to get back to our normal lives but it's ok to not feel normal in yourself straightaway. Whether we’ll be having a drink in the pub, lying on a beach, dancing at a festival or just spending time with our friends and family, it will all soon become second nature to us once again.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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