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This year has been a lot to process. COVID-19 has upended how we previously navigated our daily lives – forcing many of us away from our usual routine, support structure and into isolation, financial difficulties and the unknown. It makes sense that general wellbeing will have decreased whilst symptoms of stress and anxiety would be on the rise throughout 2020.

But what happens now that restrictions are easing? Should we just expect symptoms of reduced wellbeing to disappear? Should we expect that we can bounce back into our pre-COVID lives with ease? Unfortunately, reality isn’t always so simple. However, there is a simple explanation if we better understand how humans function in the face of change.

Adapting to change is an important human ability which likely contributes to our position at the top of the food chain. But adaptation doesn’t always happen overnight. In fact, clinically speaking, it could be anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months before our natural adaptive ability takes hold and settles us back into a sense of normality.

So what does that mean for us coming out of lockdown? Be patient. Expect some feelings of stress and anxiety – these are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. Expect new worries for new unknowns. We’re not returning to a pre-COVID world, we’re moving into a new one that has the experience of a worldwide pandemic. Things are different. It might take a little time for us to re-adjust, especially as restrictions are increasing and easing inconsistently around the world.

Take solace in the knowledge that as a human you’re designed to adapt, and that adapting is unlikely to happen overnight. So in the meantime, focus on what you can control – be patient, acknowledge your situation, create routine, aim to sleep, eat and exercise as you normally would and start rebuilding connections. And if, at any time, the adapting feels too much, too overwhelming, or you think you’re not moving through the normal adaptation process, contact your GP and consider booking an appointment with a psychologist. There are also some further resources available that can help you:

Managing social anxiety as life returns to ‘new normal’, Beyond Blue

What’s Your Wellbeing Plan? The Mind Room

Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, Beyond Blue

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