MANY of us are excited about Boris Johnson’s roadmap of lockdown and the reopening of everything from pubs and restaurants, to shops, gyms and hotels.
But for others the easing of restrictions could trigger heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
The condition – nicknamed Fear of Going Out or FOGO – is the worry about life returning to normal as lockdown measures relax.
“Statistics show that once we are allowed, around 40 per cent of us will still be reluctant to go to the shops and we may feel worried about returning to work or meeting friends,” explains Behavioural Psychologist Jo Hemmings.
“It’s been called FOGO or the Fear of Going Out.
“Many of us have been confined to the safety of our homes and other than a small break in the summer, it’s been over a year of not being allowed to go out as we did before.
“Of course, people will be worried about what life is like out there now.”
But there are things you can do to ease yourself back into your world, Jo says.
Here, she shares her top tips on coping with FOGO.
Don’t feel you’ve got to go out and do everything all at once.
There’s no need to book a restaurant, go to the gym or meet friends in the pub all on day one.
Take some time to think about what you are happy to do and don’t feel pressurised into anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
Try to do something you haven’t been doing just once or twice a week to begin with.
If you head to the shop and that feels ok, in a few days time you could try the gym.
If you are feeling anxious take baby steps. You might feel quite confident about going out and then when you do it, you realise you feel uncomfortable.
That is ok too, recognise it will take time to adjust.
Hopefully by the time we can socialise you will have been able to have the beauty treatments you feel you desperately need.
But when it’s time to go out, make the most of yourself. Wear something you feel comfortable in.
Avoid wearing the clothes you lived in during lockdown and throw the loungewear to the back of the wardrobe.
It’s time to start afresh and if you feel happy with your appearance, this will give you a confidence boost.
You will soon get used to the feeling of getting ready to go out and going out again. In no time, you’ll feel like your old self.
Whatever it is that helped you to relax during lockdown, keep it up.
It might have been exercise, jigsaw puzzles, reading or colouring in.
Mindfulness and meditation can also really help you focus on the present moment.
Try not to worry what is going to happen next week or next winter, stay in the present.
You might have made some positive changes during lockdown so definitely keep those up.
If there is something you are worried about doing, take a test run.
For example, if you will need to get the tube to work during rush-hour, perhaps try a journey at a quieter time of day first.
For a lot of people once they get over the worry of what they think it is going to be like, they feel better about it.
Get a feel for what it is like.
Talk to your boss
If you feel anxious about going back to work, whether it’s the commute or being in a workplace, talk to your boss and see if you can find a middle ground.
Maybe going to the office five days a week is too much to begin with.
Perhaps you could adjust your working hours so you don’t have to get on a train or bus during rush hour.
A healthy body is key to a healthy mind so keep going with the daily walks.
Eat healthily and watch how much alcohol you are drinking.
It doesn’t really matter what exercise you do, whether it’s running, the gym or simply doing the gardening.
It’s keeping active that’s important, and where you can, spend time outdoors.
It’s not always easy to be honest about how you might be feeling, especially if you are the only one in a group of five or six who doesn’t feel ready to do something.
People don’t want to be teased.
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But be honest if you can and don’t feel pressured into something you don’t feel ready to do.
The more you open up about how you feel, the more understanding people will be.
If you can find a friend who has a similar mindset to you so you can take each step together and lean on each other for emotional support.