Mental wellbeing for young people

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Pandemic living: Why do I feel so anxious?

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 31 Jul, 2020

So we're ploughing on into the autumn, and trying to get used to this 'new normal' - but WHY OH WHY do we feel so anxious? Why do things that we used to do without thinking now feel so weird? Will things EVER get back to feeling normal?

So one of the things that people keep asking me as we're coming out of lockdown and doing this new normal pandemic living, is why do I feel so anxious? Why is it that going back to doing normal stuff is making me feel so rubbish?

And there's two reasons really and one of them is about what happened in lockdown and we learned one really important thing and it was dead clear and dead simple and it was this: stay home, stay safe, stay home, stay safe.

And your brain learned that because you did it for over 100 days. And because it made that link really strongly what happens is when you start going out, you start doing stuff that used to be normal, you're breaking a rule that your brain learnt was dead important to stay safe. So it's gonna trigger anxiety just to warn you, like to grab your attention and say, are you sure? Are you sure? And actually in this season the answer is yeah, I've got this, so I'm sure, it's okay now, things have changed but for a time you're gonna feel more anxious.

And the second thing is something that we psychologists called dissonance. And dissonance is when there's two things going on that don't match and again your brain triggers anxiety to warn you. Something's not right, you need to check it out, is it important? Is it a problem?

So imagine this, you're walking down the street or across a field like I am now and you see someone coming the other way, but they've got a face mask on. Now walking across the field or walking down the street that's normal- face mask, whoa, right now, not normal, it's gonna become something we're used to but right now it's not normal. And so you don't want to because it's kind of a bit rude but before you know what you're doing, you've done a double-take, you've looked again at this face mask, what is that about? and then you're like, oh, yeah, everyone's wearing them. But just for that second your brain's triggered anxiety so that you take a second to look, check it out, is there a problem? Do you need to do something?

So both of those things changing the rules that we've been living by and dissonance, they're gonna trigger a bit more anxiety in this season. And we're gonna have to get used to holding that and what we need to do is remember that just because we feel anxious, doesn't mean that something really bad is actually happening.

As it's just a normal day, you're on a normal street or a normal path like this one going for a normal stroll, your brain is telling you there might be a problem, what you need to do is say do you know what it's actually okay. And as time goes on it will settle down, you'll stop having these anxieties spikes, you'll feel much more normal. Life will start to feel more normal as we get used to this, but for now, we're gonna have to manage it.


Pandemic living: Why are my friends driving me CRAZY?

Pandemic living: Why are my friends driving me CRAZY?