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With lockdowns starting to ease in some parts of the country and COVID-19 likely to be a thing for some time for the whole of Australia, you could be experiencing a mix of emotions. You might be feeling excited about regaining some freedom, but also anxious about re-engaging with the outside world.

However you’re feeling about the easing of restrictions, know that your experience is completely valid. It might take some time before you feel ‘back to normal’, or you may need to establish a new ‘normal’ for yourself – and that’s okay. Here are our six steps for easing into life living with COVID-19.

1. Go at your own pace

As life begins to change, remember that you can take things at a pace that feels comfortable for you. Just because your friend is going out all the time, it doesn’t mean you have to, too. Keep in mind that your feelings may change on a daily basis, depending on what you’re doing. For example, you might feel anxious about returning to school/work/uni, but once you get there you might feel differently. Don’t be afraid to pull back from an activity if it feels too overwhelming at first.

We have a quiz you can use to check in with yourself. It only takes five minutes to complete and will help you understand how you’re going and what you can do to feel better.

2. Set boundaries

It’s common to feel nervous about contracting/passing on COVID-19 as things start to reopen. Have a think about what you are – and aren’t – comfortable with, and communicate this to your friends and family. If you don’t feel up to hugging yet, that’s okay. If you would prefer to socialise outdoors, then keep on picnicking.

It’s also worth staying up to date with the changing restrictions (and different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people). You can do this by going to the Department of Health website for your state.

3. Do the things that keep you well

As restrictions ease, it could be easy to let your self-care slip. But it’s more important than ever that you keep doing the things that help you stay well. These things could include:

  • making time for your hobbies and the activities you do for fun
  • practising mindfulness by focusing on the present moment in a non-judgemental way
  • keeping in touch with family and friends and asking for support whenever you need it
  • doing whatever exercise feels right for you and making sure you get enough sleep
  • continuing to get professional support if that is helpful for you.

4. Be kind to yourself

Try not to judge yourself for how you’re feeling. We’re going through an extremely challenging time and it’s natural to feel all sorts of emotions. You could try some positive self-talk, such as ‘I’m feeling stressed/excited/mixed feelings about living life with COVID-19, and that’s okay’ or ‘I’ll get through this challenging time, one day at a time’.

Being kind to yourself, and accepting the way you’re feeling, can also include practising self-care or looking into ways to manage your anxiety and stress.

5. Appreciate the little things

Even if you’re feeling stressed about restrictions easing and living with COVID-19, you can also remind yourself of the exciting things to come.

What are you looking forward to doing when the time feels right: seeing friends or family, going out for a coffee, playing a team sport? Remind yourself that you’ll enjoy these fun things again soon, while acknowledging that it’s okay to take as much time as you need to adjust.

Gratitude, or appreciation of the good things that happen in life, is an essential part of building happiness. Read our tips on how to practise gratitude here.

6. Talk to friends and family

If you feel you could use a bit of extra support, consider talking to a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes this is the best way to deal with an issue that’s bothering you. Check out our guide to talking to someone you trust here.

If you feel more comfortable talking to a mental health professional, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Read our five tips for choosing the right mental health professional here.

Although living life with COVID-19 will definitely take some getting used to, you will be able to manage it. Try the steps above, and always remember that you can get extra support if you need it.