By in Mindfulness

So You Are Allowed Out Now…

Since the beginning of this week, those of us who have been shielding (meaning actually staying inside the home because of a heightened risk from coronavirus) have officially been given the okay to venture outside after two and a half months of staying indoors. Great, right? Finally!

Or maybe you do not feel that great about it somehow?

We all feel very mixed about emerging from lockdown in general. For some of us, this virus does not feel as much of a threat and therefore regaining the freedom to be out and about more, or being allowed to go back to work is uncomplicatedly great.

But there are many of us, who felt that while lockdown was difficult in many ways, it also made some things very simple. We did not have to make any decisions about what was reasonable or save to do. The rules were clear and they were also keeping us as save from this threat as we could be.

As we look ahead now, this is changing. It seems that while the rules are becoming more vague and open to interpretation, responsibility and judgement has been handed back to us. For some of us it means weighing up financial safety against physical safety. And our own emotional needs against the needs of our wider community. These are very difficult decisions to make when we know so little about the situation and how these changes are effecting the infection rate, and how the infection would effect us as an individual or our loved ones if we got it.

For those who have been shielding the rules were very clear “Do not go outside at all.” And the new message is similarly clear “You can go outside now, but stay away from people.” That seems technically easy enough and yet it somehow may not feel that way.

Do you feel while you are desperate to go outside, you just don’t want to?

Maybe the thought of making that step feels frightening?

Maybe you just don’t feel that there is enough evidence to show that going outside now is any saver than it was a few weeks ago?

Maybe you just do not know what and who to believe?

What you should know is that you do not even have to be able to explain why you are finding the idea of going outside difficult. If you feel uncomfortable about going out to the level that it causes you distress, that means your body knows exactly why it chooses to tell you to stay inside, even if you are not consciously clear on the matter. Your autonomic nervous system does not understand all the nuances of our complicated modern lives. It only understands safety or danger. There are and have been many messages out there telling us that outside is unsafe. Regardless of what I think about the situation and going outside, I may be in genuine conflict about the need or want to go outside versus the unknown risk factors.

Most of us experience this to a degree but if you have been shielding for months, your nervous system may have settled into this reality where outside is simply unsafe. It is not always easy to suddenly make the switch to “it is save now”, especially when we may feel actually genuinely unsure about the level of safety.

An interesting question to ask yourself might be, how you would feel about going outside, if the virus had been completely gone and all was good now? 

Would that make it very easy to go outside now? Or would you still feel distrusting of the situation, or perhaps you realise that you are now generally more fearful of the outdoors and all the other potential risks out there?

What ever your answer to this question may be, there is nothing wrong with you and your response. This is a very unusual situation and shielding is a very extreme thing to have to do. It is only natural that there is difficulty around this right now.

In fact however you feel about going outside is fine. We are all different and regardless of what anyone says, it actually is up to you if and when you go outside and only you can make that decision for yourself.

It may just not be the right time for you yet. Of course going outside is vital in many regards for our health, yet it is okay to go with your gut and to choose your own pace at which you transition from shielding to going out. Maybe you need more time to observe the situation or you just need a bit of support, feel more prepared and that you can do this on your terms and in your way.

But if you are struggling, here are a few tips that may help you assess the situation for yourself and make the transition from shielding to going outside again:

  • Ask yourself what stops you from going outside now. Is there something specific like “I need more time to monitor how the loosening restrictions of lockdown effect the infection numbers, so that I can be reassured that it is relatively save for me.” or “I feel kind of run down at the moment and more vulnerable than usual, so I will wait until I feel physically better.” or even just “I can not find a reason really, just thinking of going outside stresses me out.”

What ever your answer to this question is will determine whether you decide to give yourself a bit more time or whether the right time to go out is now. It may also lead you to another important and useful question:

  • What do you need in order to feel more comfortable about going outside?

Take your time with this. If you could have anything, what would help you make this feel as save as possible? A mask and gloves? Your partner to come with you? It is a great idea to gather the resources that will feel supportive for you. Go even further with this, what clothes would you feel most comfortable in when you go outside?

  • Slow down and take small steps.

When the time is right don’t expect too much of yourself. Make it easier for yourself by taking small steps. Maybe the first step is to just stand outside your front door for 10 minutes feeling the sun on your face before going back inside. Maybe the next day you walk a few meters up your road at 7am in the morning when no one else is out there. Maybe the next day you go for a short walk.

  • Be mindful

Even as you prepare for your first venture outside, be mindful of your body’s reactions and your feelings about it. You can abort the mission any time. It does not mean that you have failed. It means that you were successful in being aware and mindful and you were able to listen to your body and you respected your body’s reactions at this point. Perhaps you needed a little more support, or it just was not the time. It is okay. You can seek more support or it might just be fine next time you go. If it happens repeatedly it is a good idea to use your awareness in the moment to gather more information on what is going on for you. If you feel like aborting your plan can you pause a moment and be curious about the sensations in your body that tell you, that you want to stop? Can you allow those sensations to be witnessed with curiosity for a moment before acting on them? This may help you actually gain resilience as well as more insight into whether there is something else that you need that is currently missing.

If you do go outside, still be mindful and “with you”. Be aware of what is around you, pause, and sometimes just notice the breeze on your skin, the crunching of sand under your shoe, the singing of the birds. Be in the moment. It will give your nervous system valuable information about the moment you are in and that there is at least no threat in that moment that we can see or hear.

And if you feel you do need more support during this unprecedented time that is okay too.

You can contact Kristin for support at The Body Matters on 01702 714968.

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