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How to come out of a COVID-19 lockdown if you’re feeling anxious

Blog post | 11 Oct 2021

With their eyes on vaccination targets, many Australians are counting down to COVID-19 restrictions easing.

Families are hoping to be reunited for the festive season when more borders open and international travel resumes. Some people are eagerly anticipating haircuts and manicures, mammograms, and even routine teeth cleaning.

But what if you’re not excited about lockdowns ending? What if you’re anxious or apprehensive?

Here are some of the reasons people may be dreading reopening, and some strategies to cope with them.

You’re worried about getting COVID-19

The end of lockdown doesn't mean the end of COVID-19. It’s very normal to feel nervous or even scared about catching the virus. You may be particularly apprehensive if you can’t get vaccinated for health reasons or if you have a child who's currently ineligible.

Try to remember that COVID-19 vaccination is extremely effective at preventing hospitalisations and severe illness. In the first 11 weeks of the latest outbreak in New South Wales, fewer than 2% of people in intensive care in hospitals were fully vaccinated.

It's also likely that once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of COVID-19 in the community will decrease. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.

You like working from home

If you’re less than enthused about swapping your trackies for collared shirts (which require ironing!), you’re not alone. An Australian Government Productivity Commission report found that most workers want to continue working from home — for at least some of the time.

One perceived benefit of working from home is avoiding the commute (travelling to your workplace). According to the Productivity Commission, in 2019, full-time workers in major Australian cities spent an average of 67 minutes per day commuting. That's more than 260 hours every year.

If you’ve been working effectively from home and it’s boosting your work-life balance, now is a good time to talk to your employer about continuing to work flexibly.

You like being in a ‘bubble’ — or have social anxiety

Being cocooned at home may suit your personality, which may make the easing of restrictions less appealing. If you have social anxiety, the idea of reconnecting with people may heighten your fears and anxieties.

Even if you’re normally very sociable, you might be worried that you won’t remember how to hold a conversation that's not on Zoom.

Whether or not you've experienced anxiety in the past, there are many ways to help manage your worries about reconnecting — such as exposure therapy, which means building up your social interactions gradually. Start small, with short interactions with just a few people. Work your way up to longer, more crowded situations — such as a party — if that’s what you want to do.

Consider getting advice from a registered psychologist (you can find one using the healthdirect Service Finder) or using an evidence-based online self-help tool such as The Black Dog Institute's myCompass.

You don’t need to hide how you’re feeling, either. Tell friends and family that you’re experiencing anxiety and they can support you in social situations.

You don’t feel you can confidently make plans

Once upon a time you could book a holiday, restaurant table or elective surgery and expect it to happen as planned. Now? Not so much, thanks to the pandemic.

However, COVID-19 has taught most people to be more adaptable, flexible and resilient. Things don’t always go to plan and life is uncertain.

Feel proud of how adaptable you’ve become — it's a lifelong skill. Restrictions may continue to come and go, so know that you’ll be well prepared for possible future lockdowns.

You don’t have your 'vaccine passport’ yet

In New South Wales for example, only fully vaccinated people will be able to enjoy post-lockdown freedoms before 1 December 2021. Don’t have a vaccination passport or certificate to flash? Don’t worry.

It’s easy to prove your COVID-19 vaccination, including by showing the digital certificate that can be added to Apple Wallet or Google Pay on your mobile.

Once you’ve had all required doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, you can access your COVID-19 digital certificate via:

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, you’ll need an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) to access your COVID-19 digital certificate. You’ll need a myGov account to get an IHI.

Visit Services Australia for more information, or learn about the different ways you can prove COVID-19 vaccination here — including if you don't have a smartphone.

You don’t want to lose lockdown’s ‘good stuff’

For some, lockdown has its benefits. A survey by the Australian National University found that two-thirds of people cited at least one positive impact COVID-19 has had on them, such as spending more time with family.

You may have exercised more or been less busy. Lockdown may have given you the headspace to consider how you really want to spend your time or what your next career step should be.

But you don’t have to retire any new healthy habits just because you’ve been given more freedoms. Follow these tips from Beyond Blue if you want to hold on to the good stuff:

  • Decide on what you want to keep doing — and why. Identifying the changes that improved your life is the first step. Remind yourself it’s worth making the effort to keep them up.
  • Be prepared. You’re more likely to make unhealthy choices if you’re underprepared or disorganised. You could, for example, keep a pair of trainers under your desk for lunchtime walks or create weekly meal plans.
  • Avoid thinking in ‘modes’: for example, ‘lockdown mode’ versus ‘post-COVID mode’. Separating mindsets like this can make it harder to maintain good habits, so try not to think in terms of ‘then’ and ‘now’.

How to access mental health support

Feeling anxious or apprehensive about restrictions easing is completely normal. Contact any of these organisations if you need to talk to someone.

  • Lifeline offers free telephone counselling (24 hours a day), online support (7pm-midnight) and text support (6pm-midnight). Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

  • Beyond Blue offers free telephone counselling (24 hours a day) and online support (3pm-midnight). Call 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au.

  • Children and young adults (up to age 25) can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 to speak with a counsellor or chat on the web (in real time), 24 hours a day.

  • Young people can get support through headspace centres — whether in person at a centre, online or over the phone. There are more than 100 headspace centres across Australia.

  • The Black Dog Institute has evidence-based tools and resources for mental health help during the pandemic.

  • Get more COVID-19 mental health tips here.

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