Managing difficult feelings

After what seems like months of winter, there is now, at last, light at the end of the tunnel and something to look forward to. Warmer days, the chance to see friends and family, restart hobbies long forgotten, a trip to a pub, a browse round the shops and for many a return to the office on the cards. Despite all this good news, many of us may not be feeling excited and happy about the future.  While we may feel like we ‘should’ be happy about things returning to normal, we may be feeling overwhelmed or anxious about the possibility of change. 

Unfreezing your feelings

The last year has been extremely difficult; we have undergone a collective trauma and it is unrealistic that we will be able to move on from it quickly without spending some time processing and reflecting on it. For many of us, lockdown saw us go into survival mode – head down, focusing on the essentials of eating, sleeping, working – one day at a time, with not much head space for anything else.

With a loosening of restrictions, we will slowly emerge from this stasis we have been in, like animals coming out of hibernation to welcome spring. We may have shut down our emotions and feelings for lockdown and these may now come to the fore. Don’t be surprised if you feel you can’t let go of the past few months easily; it will take time to come to terms with it all and process feelings of grief, anger, sadness and relief.

Don’t rush into anything

As with most situations, it’s better not to run before you can walk. After months of lockdown, many of us simply aren’t used to seeing lots of people and travelling far from our home. It is likely we will have difficulty initially adjusting, and going back to the office or meeting friends socially after months of near isolation will be very tiring. You may also feel anxiety about the change, so take it at your own pace – don’t feel pressured to fill your diary as you will need time to rest. Go at your own pace.

Think about what you want work to look like

Even if your office has reopened and they’ve called to tell you can come back, don’t make any decisions straight away, if possible. You need to really think about what’s best for you and your situation – everyone is different. You might want to permanently work from home, work flexible hours or work a few days from home. You might want to go back to existing childcare arrangements or alter them. Be confident about sharing your feelings about returning with your line manager or HR.

Keep the good parts of lockdown

Many of us have got into good habits in lockdown – we’re spending more time with immediate family, more time outside, eating right, spending less and getting exercise. In our rush to get back to normal, we mustn’t lose sight of the lessons we can learn from lockdown. Many of us have benefited from a slower, calmer, simpler way of life – spend some time thinking about what changes you might like to take with you. This is an opportunity to reimagine what your life could look like.

Recognise it may be difficult

It’s likely that going back to ‘normal’ will not be without hiccups along the way. We’ve been living in our own separate bubbles for months and in the outside world we’ll be in closer contact with people outside our immediate family, which won’t be without its challenges. Recognise that best laid plans often have setbacks, so keep an eye on how you are feeling, how you are coping and be kind to yourself.

Talk about how you are feeling

Being able to share how you are feeling is vital to good mental health and wellbeing. Just talking to someone about your worries, a colleague, a friend or LawCare, can help you process your emotions and feel calmer and less stressed.

LawCare provides emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their concerned family members. You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at support@lawcare.org.uk  or access online chat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk  

Elizabeth Rimmer is chief executive of LawCare.

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