Of course, there are the, arguably, more important anxieties that now feature in this new strange reality we all share too, like money worries, job security, interacting with others post-lockdown and how the bills will be paid on a furloughed pay packet.
The realities of lockdown anxieties are something none of us could ever have contemplated and now, due to the loosening of government restrictions, we’re starting to worry about life, beyond lockdown.
There are many side effects of the lockdown that I would never have contemplated this time 9 weeks ago. Buying more notebooks for example, as I’ve run out of scraps of paper to furiously scribble virtual quiz answers onto, or desperately hunting out packets of baking powder in my local supermarkets because I now have a sudden desire to cook baked goods. These inane worries and problems suddenly have become the centre of my universe, when just as little over 3 months ago wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.
It would appear I am not the only one who feels like this, however, as we now face the possibility of a semblance of normal life resuming, it is surveyed that over 84% of the public are reporting high levels of anxiety about interacting with others outside of their household when able.
Living in a two bed flat in Newcastle, with my boyfriend and our cat means that for the last 9 weeks I have not interacted in real life with anybody else apart from him (I’m not counting my small interactions with the lady at our local Sainsburys who has yet shown judgement on my essential haul of Dairy Milk and rosé wine). Yet with the realities of some form of “normal life” resuming, I’m starting to worry about the lack of communication I have had with anybody else in months and quite frankly, I’m terrified.
“Emotional and physical distance and independence is important to the health of all relationships, especially romantic ones,” Says Rebecca Andrews, Psychotherapist. “The space to be by ourselves and engage in activities that are just for ourselves can be hard to find when living under lockdown. We may have developed a bit of co-dependence during this time; cooking, socialising, relaxing, exercising and resting together can seem comforting, and like a treat, to begin with, but can lead us to lose a bit of who we are as an individual person.”
When lockdown began, me and my partner tried everything to keep the novelty of spending unlimited time together alive. We took it in turns to plan indoor date nights, choosing themes and ditching our loungewear. We facetimed our families, doing virtual quizzes and celebrating birthdays from afar. We meal planned and went for walks, discovering new areas of our neighbourhood together. We got drunk, told each other stories we had never heard, and we spent every single minute of every single day asking what the other one was doing next.
Of course, there have been arguments and nonsensical snapping at each other because patience is growing thin, but mostly it’s just been intense closeness. We have spent all of our time together, from the natural mood swings we all experience. We’ve exercised, worked, relaxed, rested and slept together and now we can communicate in ways that we never could.
Similarly, Justine and her partner Rachel* have felt the pressures of closeness in their relationship. “We don’t have much space in our small flat, so we really do feel like we’re living on top of each other. Now not only the physical change in space when we go into the outside world is making me panic but leaving Rachels side when it feels like we do everything together feels like an alien concept already”
It’s a time of heightened anxiety for most, so it is natural that what we know and who we are surrounding ourselves with daily becomes a safety bubble from the unknown. So how can we manage the post-lockdown anxieties and break out from the relationship comfort bubble that many of us are now finding ourselves in?
It may seem counterproductive to your current fears but planning for the inevitable separation from those you are currently spending 24/7 with can prepare you for new interactions into your daily life, whatever they may look like.
“When we are communicating with others it can help to view that situation with compassion. Others are not able to read our minds and can only react to us with the knowledge they have and from their experience.” Says Rebecca. It is good to start using these healthy communication habits now, for both your experiences with others after lockdown as well as your partner you have been isolating with.
“The truth is, we can never go back to what’s normal pre-lockdown. Even after we can slowly venture out of our houses, and meet our loved ones, we will still need some downtime to adjust.” Agrees Chris Pleines, Dating and Relationships Expert and Founder at DatingScout.co.uk. “Don’t force it – take it easy. Don’t expect your relationship to snap back, immediately, to the time when the virus wasn’t in the picture, yet. Just keep an open line between the two of you as you slowly, but surely, navigate your way back to the physical and intimate you.”
Studies show that when transitioning into and out of unusual environments or situations, it normally takes up to 10 days for people to adjust. Rebecca advises that “Being aware of this and not expecting things to be ‘back to normal’ straight away can help us to accept this adjustment period and how it may affect ourselves and others around us emotionally.”
Whilst the realities of life post lockdown are causing all of us to start contemplating a new norm, it’s important to remember that everything takes time and that your relationship will naturally adjust to the new reality we all face together.