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24th Jun 2020

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed about restrictions lifting

In fact, it’s to be expected.

June 29 marks the beginning of Phase Three. Or, as it is otherwise known, the low key end of lockdown.

Ireland may only be just over half way through our designated roadmap for the reopening of the economy, and yet it almost seems as if Covid-19 is over. We beat it, it’s done. Let’s move on as quickly as we can.

Restaurant bookings, salon waiting lists, plans for parties involving designated maximum numbers of guests; they’re all in the pipeline and they’re all going to happen.

After all, it’s safe to do so now, so why not?

A recent survey from the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) through Behaviour & Attitudes shows that a significant number of young people have been struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.

The study shows that people under the age of 25 have experienced a dramatic increase in levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness during lockdown, with almost half of people saying they “often” felt stressed or anxious compared to just eight percent during the same period last year.

The findings are concerning, sure, but they are not all that surprising.

Since March, the vast majority of people have been confined to their homes, leaving only for a quick trip to the shops or a daily bout of exercise.

For months, all communication was restricted to Zoom calls, all real life interactions mired with a fear of virus contraction. Crowded spaces were avoided, surfaces were consistently wiped down. Going outside became frightening, other people became pariahs.

Many of us are feeling a coherent relief and excitement that restrictions are finally lifting. We’ve missed our friends, we’ve missed dining out, we’ve missed casual drinks, long walks, and date nights.

As things get “back to normal,” there’s a presumption that everybody is in the same camp: excited, allayed, relieved that regular life can resume.

But for some people, that may not be the case at all.

There has been much discussion recently that Covid-19 may be contributing to a rise in agoraphobia among the general population.

Not just a fear of going outside, the anxiety disorder also covers concerns around getting trapped somewhere, entering into unfamiliar spaces, and finding oneself in a scenario that is inescapable.

It is not uncommon for people experiencing agoraphobia to have a history of general anxiety, one that has easily become more debilitating due to the pandemic and the considerable day-to-day life changes that came with it.

It’s hardly surprising then that for a lot of people, the lifting of restrictions has come with a wariness of normality, rather than a relief that an end point is finally in sight.

It can often be tempting to discredit the fears of those who are taking slightly longer to feel comfortable in this almost-post-Covid world. It might even seem normal to tell them “not to worry about it,” or “relax, we’re allowed to do this now.”

But as with most situations, sometimes being allowed to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to.

And for some, it may mean that they don’t want to at all – at least, not for a little bit longer. And that’s okay.