We don’t know what normal looks like anymore.

There was a sense of excitement and apprehension at home last week. Lots of Year 10’s and 12’s have gone back to Secondary School for the first time in 3 months, and my daughter was one of them.

For many of us, going back to a classroom or office again is a significant milestone in returning to what we thought was normality. Only we realise we don’t know what normal looks like anymore.

My daughter knew in advance that the school day would be shorter than she was used to, she was only due to go to school one day each week, and there will be 9 teenagers socially distanced in her classroom, not 30+.

We discussed how she felt about returning to school. On the one hand, she wanted to see all her friends and pick her life back up from where it had been dropped. On the other hand, she wasn’t going to be able to hug her friends, so she wondered what was the point of going back? I chose not to mention that school had other benefits too ….

The school desks are apparently so far apart that voices have to be raised to hear each other. They can’t get up and walk around a classroom, so inevitably, students can only communicate with those closest to them. This will likely impact on friendships as conversations are no longer private. Sadly, for the time being, they can no longer meet up in the lunchroom, the playground or even the field to catch up with friends.

While we can understand why these modifications have been introduced, it has highlighted just how much has changed since we went into lockdown, and we still don’t know what our new normal will be. Understandably, this next stage to reintroduce some normality has further increased our anxiety levels.

This is not just an issue for teenagers. I hear similar things from the charities I volunteer with. I am being told parallel scenarios are happening in offices where staff numbers are dramatically reduced, desks are further apart, and there is no chatting in the kitchen area or canteen. Video conference meetings are still taking place as many staff remain working from home. So we are watching our colleagues on our computer screens, when they may be sitting (socially distanced of course) right next to us.

Back at the start of lockdown, it felt as if we had pressed the pause button on life as we knew it, but we knew that we would hit the play button again at some point in the not too distant future. Now it feels as if we hit the pause button and the movie has been changed, before we get to hit play again.

Our new routines will continue to be adjusted to accommodate new government guidelines. So, if you or your child are feeling anxious about the next stage of change and uncertainty, when we are coming back into contact with others, it is worth remembering that anxiety is just a feeling of apprehension and uncertainty. It is perfectly normal to feel this way, given the current situation. Our fight or flight response is an evolutionary reaction and has kept us safe since the beginning of time. Our anxiety is ensuring we wash our hands more frequently, wear face masks in public and remain socially distanced. So it may actually be helping us.

If you are feeling unprepared for the changes that are coming, recognise that there was no ‘normal’ response when we went into lockdown either, so it is understandable if we feel anxious again now.

Some clients have felt safer in their bubble than they have felt in years, and they don’t particularly want this situation to end. These are often the same clients who were incredibly anxious about going into lockdown. But, they are coming out the other side of this having learnt something new about themselves. They are more flexible and resilient than they realised, and this empowers them to continue to build on their confidence and self-esteem.

Please understand and recognise our feelings do change. You might feel one way one day, and another way another day. Remind yourself it is ok not to feel ok all the time. Remind yourself you are doing your best with the resources you have available to you.

If you are finding your anxiety too overwhelming, and you or your loved ones are struggling, then please get in touch to discuss how I can help you.