When you hear your peers talk about how excited they are to “get back out there when the restrictions end” does it make you feel anxious? Are you reluctant to leave the safety of your home? Are you hiding your fears behind a smile?
If you have answered “YES!” then you are not alone.
60% of people in the UK have a fear or worry of returning to normal life and lockdown measures relaxing. Mental health charity Anxiety UK recently dubbed this as ‘Fear of going out’ (FOGO) and Post-Lockdown Anxiety.
Just not ready
With so much buzz about getting back to ‘normal or ‘pre-covid life’ once the lockdown end it’s totally understandable that lots of people are ready to start working again and also that many are dreading it.
We are told we are naturally sociable people who thrive from being around others, it’s in our DNA, but what if you’re just not feeling it right now? This pandemic is a situation that you have never experienced before; months of lockdowns, constant confusion and restrictions plus health worries therefore home is where you feel safe and in control. For you, the light at the end of the tunnel feels more like an oncoming train hurtling towards you and the fear is setting in.
We will see meetings move from virtual (bye bye Zoom) to in-person, social gatherings and meetups in the pub to life event celebrations and even holidays – it can be a very stressful time for many, that’s for both you and your clients.
You just don’t feel ready. You have lost confidence. You actually don’t want to see people in person and that could be for many reasons; from physical appearance to the business ability and everything in between.
Judging yourself unfairly? I’ve heard peers and clients say; “I’ve done nothing for the last year and everyone has achieved so much more than me” “I’ve put on so much weight I don’t want to see anyone” “my hair looks diabolical – I need a hair appointment” “What if I can’t remember what to say?” “I’ve forgotten how to dress other than PJ’s and joggers” Be kind to yourself – you’d be surprised at how many feel the same.
What can you do?
Remember back to those first months when you were starting out – the feelings of hesitance mixed with passion and excitement creating adrenalin – you took action and you got through it and you can again.
You could throw yourself out there and hope for the best but if your anxiety is overwhelming then be realistic and accept that you are starting afresh, give yourself a break and you can build on each step you make.
Start small and rebuild your confidence – competence builds your confidence – build on yours.
If you have the privilege of choosing when and how you reintroduce yourself to the world again then use that privilege – go at your own pace.
Ask yourself “what can I do now that I feel comfortable with?” That may look different to you than to your peers;
>it could be sticking with virtual meetings for now
>arrange to meet an understanding and patient friend at a location you are familiar with
>give extra information or detail over the phone or via email before you meet up – this makes the in-person meeting shorter
> find your personal champion – someone you can talk openly to about the way you feel, either a trusted friend (they don’t have to feel the same just to understand you) or if more severe, then a medical professional
>bear in mind that nerves could actually be excitement – you may really enjoy the experience when you get there.
>reminder – you know your trade, you have the knowledge and experience
>deal with situations as they arise
>have positive affirmations or sentences to repeat to yourself during the journey there, before you go in, during the meeting and as you leave.
>learn some breathing exercises – these are useful in many situations.
Do I mention it to my clients?
If it feels comfortable to you then be open and let them know in advance, for example you could say; “this is the first time I’ve been out and I’m feeling a little anxious, how about you?” Then they know up front. It also shows you are honest and if they feel the same you can reassure them that you will do what is comfortable for them too. You are still the expert that they want to meet.
Make your required protocol clear to your clients from the beginning, if you will be wearing a mask and would like them to wear one too, if you will be bringing sanitiser or if they need to bring their own, what your feelings are around shaking hands or elbow bumps and what physical documentation (flyers, brochures & business cards) you will bring, if any, or if all information will be online.
You’ve survived your first challenge now what?
After each meeting or event – assess how you did, is there anything you could work on or plan in advance? Anything you could improve on for next time? Trust your own judgement – if it doesn’t feel right for you, right now – act accordingly. That works both ways – if you feel you can handle more then go for it.
>Address the worst worst case scenario and how you can handle that, recognise this happens even without a pandemic.
>It could be the psychological fear of the ‘idea’ of what ‘might happen’ with no concrete cause and often it works out not as bad as we expected.
>Plan and plan again – have everything in place for when you do go and this will breed confidence. Preparation and knowledge stops risky situations.
Like most things the more you do it the easier it becomes – repetition becomes implicit memory – your mind will remember and it becomes more natural.
And do recognise your accomplishments by congratulating yourself for getting through what was a challenge to you. Master the small wins.
If the feelings continue and your ‘FOGO’ (fear of going out) or post-lockdown anxiety can be defined as the medical term ‘agoraphobia’ it would be advisable to seek professional help. Take a look at our Resources page
The good news is you can break the cycle and evidence does show that ultimately you will reach a positive outcome. You will be back doing what you have passion for sooner rather than later.
And like the Netflix Documentary, Tiger King, from the very first lockdown (remember that?!) this will be a distance memory.