How to Navigate Easing Restrictions

There’s a lot happening right now, in New Zealand and around the world. The restrictions and safety measures we’ve gotten used to are changing, again. For many, this means a return to the office, workplace or a hybrid working situation.

If you’re feeling anxious or worried during this time, you’re not alone. Even if you don’t usually experience much anxiety, it’s common to feel some level of anxiety during periods of change or uncertainty.

Everyone’s fears and concerns are different. Some people are worried about their health and catching or spreading COVID-19. Others are concerned about other people’s wellbeing, returning to more social environments, or re-entering the workforce after losing their jobs. These are all big adjustments to make.

Taking some time to dig down into your concerns and talking them through with a safe person can help ease the anxious feelings simply by sharing your fears and getting them out in the open. You might find you’re not the only one feeling that way.

It helps to put the risks into perspective and be kind to yourself and others as you make the necessary transitions.

RECOGNISING ANXIETY

You may be feeling tense and on edge, nervous, panicky or irritable. You might struggle to focus on anything other than your worries, and physically feel things like stomachaches, light-headedness and sweating.

We can feel overwhelmed, have trouble sleeping, feel exhausted and want to avoid social settings when caught up in anxious and repetitive thoughts.

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms in yourself or someone else, it’s important to act and seek help early. Starting a conversation is the first step.

HOW TO ADJUST TO CHANGE AND TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY

TAKE IT SLOWLY

Everyone has a different tolerance to change and the speed with which people can adjust varies based on a variety of factors. Just because restrictions are easing doesn’t mean you need to rush out straight away. Take the time to build your confidence and give yourself time to adjust. Simple things like going to public events, catching public transportation or spending time with more people in person might feel strange at first.

Make plans that you feel comfortable with and express your feelings with whānau, friends and co-workers. If you feel overwhelmed, take a few slow, deep breaths to help you calm down and regulate your nervous system.

DISCUSS ADJUSTMENTS AT WORK

Talk to your manager or employer about how you’re coping and discuss opportunities for reasonable adjustments to help you feel comfortable and work more effectively. Depending on your company’s flexible working policy, this may include the ability to work from home some days, flexible working hours, or additional training and support.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

When things feel out of our control and we’re not sure if we have the capacity, skills or ability to cope, we often feel anxious. Many of us value control and during times of uncertainty and change, it can seriously compromise that value. We can find ourselves ruminating about worst-case scenarios. Look for and focus on things you can control or influence like what time you wake up and go to bed, eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep, and following health advice and hygiene protocols.

We tend to feel what we focus on, so what are you focusing on?

Focus on the things to enjoy and look forward to, for example, your funny colleague, the break-room banter, packing a delicious lunch, or a daily lunchtime walk.

BE MINDFUL OF ANXIETY-PROVOKING BEHAVIOURS

Be aware of how you feel after engaging in certain behaviours. Things like frequently checking social media and consuming alcohol can fuel anxious thoughts. Pay attention to how things make you feel and look for ways to replace them with more helpful coping strategies like getting out for a walk or chatting with an encouraging friend or colleague.  

SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

It’s always ok to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek professional support. Talk to your GP, psychologist, or EAP.

KEY MESSAGE

Feeling apprehensive when things are changing is normal. Focus on what you can control and identify what you need to make the transition easier. Talk about how you’re feeling and be willing to ask for what you need at home and at work. We've survived the changes this far, so let’s be kind to ourselves and each other as we navigate the changes, again. Kia kaha. 

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