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Freedom Day feeling more like Anxiety Day? You're not alone

While the doors to nightclubs fling open and many march maskless into their local pub, Covid is still a heavy and overwhelming elephant in the room for lots of people. Stepping into the unknown can bring about all sorts of emotions, and for many, Freedom Day won’t mean freedom from worries and anxiety. We’ve put together some tips on how to adjust to this change.

After months of following rules and restrictions, the idea of being left to our own devices feels a bit like taking the stabilisers off when we’re still learning to ride a bike. A poll on our Twitter revealed 27.2% of you were excited for the changes - but 72.8% of you felt anxious about them.

The guidance has become increasingly fuzzy and there’s no roadmap to help us find our way, so whether you’re excited or anxious about being unlocked, it’s normal to feel a little directionless. We asked you on Instagram how you felt about all lockdown restrictions ending to try and get an idea what’s on your mind - here's what you said and our advice to help.

“It’s good, but overwhelming. All of a sudden everything is changing.”

Change can be scary, and anxiety about the unknown is totally normal.

Since everything kicked off last year, we’ve had to face some big changes to our lives and how we lead them. Some people have embraced these switch ups (let’s face it, we all have one friend who's using the excuse to ‘socially distance’ themselves from the world a little too much), becoming accustomed to tedious apps to order beers, rainy day meet ups and QR codes, but we can’t all be Covid chameleons and that’s okay.

So much is changing and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it’s important to remember you don’t have to adjust to everything at once. Take things one day at a time and socialise in a way that makes you feel safe.

“I’m worried people will be horrible to me if I choose to wear a mask”

Masks have become the norm and the decision to make them optional is divisive. You do you.

From the moment they were mandatory, masks have been a big talking point. Many people feel safer wearing one - especially as it's helped them to dodge the usual Winter colds. Whether you’re gutted you’ll no longer be able to secretly mouth along to that cheesy song you don’t want people to know you’re listening to, or excited to ditch the round up of face coverings on washing day - the idea of not wearing one might be making you anxious.

Maybe you work in hospitality and don’t fancy people complaining in your face about the quality of the quiche, or you’re uncomfortable at the idea of strangers coughing in your vicinity while you browse the supermarket shelves. Remember you can approach the coming weeks with as much caution as you like and if that means continuing to wear a mask and social distancing, you absolutely can.

“I’m not ready to be in a crowded pub with everyone breathing and speaking over each other.”

Don’t feel like sitting in a sweaty pub eating peanuts at the bar? No stress, you don’t gotta.

If we’ve learned one thing from the past year and a half, it’s that we all have different ways of coping in a crisis. For some that’s meant staying home more, swapping crowded spaces for virtual socials and keeping their personal space.

Naturally, some boundaries have become a little more fluid as time’s gone on and people have found their own ways to keep themselves and their families safe. Maybe you’ve sneaked in a cheeky hug with a loved one or walked the wrong way round the one way system in your local, but with rules taken away full stop, Freedom Day can feel more like Anxiety Day.

If you feel pressed to take things at a pace you’re not comfortable with, be clear with your mates about where your boundaries are when it comes to socialising and encourage them to do the same.

“It will be easier to make plans spontaneously rather than having to book everything.”

We get it, booking weeks ahead can really suck the enjoyment out of catching up with pals.

Remember just rocking up to a restaurant last minute sans booking? Spontaneous catch ups seem like a thing of the past, but it feels pretty good to know it will be easier to hang out with people moving forward.

The limit of six and bad weather have made celebrations and get-togethers a logistical nightmare, making socialising stressful at times. Restrictions have been isolating, impacting friendships and even ending relationships, so we get that many are buzzing to see more of their mates. It might take a while to get back into the social swing, but you’ll find your pre-Covid confidence again.

“I’m only single vaxxed and I’m worried about my own and other’s health.”

You might feel apprehensive about having to self-isolate or scared someone you love will get ill.

If your vaccine status is causing anxiety, it can help to weigh up risks. Think about your family situation and if anyone close to you is vulnerable, keep an eye on Covid cases in your area and remember you can test regularly to put your mind at ease. It’s fine to be careful at the moment.

Missing work because you’re sick can also be stressful when you have bills to pay or deadlines to meet. If you’re told to self-isolate and you’re unable to work from home or get sick pay from your employer, you can look into financial support. Your boss should be understanding about the situation, after all it’s out of your hands. Granted it’s a pain in the arse to stay home for ten days, but hey, what better excuse to indulge in that movie marathon?

“I’m excited. I can’t wait to see performances at full capacity again.”

Clubbers, gig-goers and theatre-watchers - it’s your time to shine.

The world starting to open up does mean there’s loads more exciting things to do: gigs, comedy shows, the theatre - it’s not just great for audiences, but also for artists. Chances are, something you’ve booked up this year has been postponed, but our calendars may be set to start looking a little busier now, giving us more things to look forward to.

No matter how you’re feeling, CALM is here.

It’s bound to feel strange the first time you leave the house without the usual mask and antibac check and it will definitely feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants at times.

Whether you welcome the changes or not - or you’re somewhere in the middle - we can be mindful of other people’s choices, asking before jumping in for a hug, keeping our distance from strangers and respecting the fact that not everyone feels the same. If you’re struggling with this next chapter or need to get a weight off your mind, you can talk to CALM. Our free, confidential helpline and webchat is open every day from 5pm until midnight.

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