Most of us are relishing lockdown lifting and life returning to some sort of normality.
But for some the prospect of heading out into the world again after a year of isolation is daunting.
Post-lockdown anxiety is a new phenomenon affecting a growing number of people who are worried about different aspects of normal life from socialising, to returning to work or even picking up a faster pace of life again.
Rosie Weatherley, Information Content Manager at mental health charity Mind explains:
“Lockdown has been difficult for many people. It can feel stressful when things are changing quickly, and you may be feeling lots of different emotions. You might be feeling anxious and afraid or stressed and unprepared for any changes.
"Alternatively, you may have found that some aspects of lockdown have been positive for your wellbeing and that you’d like to protect your lockdown routine.
“It’s important to remember that there is no ‘normal’ response to changes to lockdown and your feelings may be affected by lots of things that are outside of your control. Your feelings may also change day to day.”
Dee Featherstone, 32, says she is worried about life returning to normal not just for herself, but also fears for her toddler son Alfie who hasn’t seen his grandparents for almost a year.
She explains: “I have suffered from anxiety for most of my life anyway. But after spending so much time in lockdown the thought of going out is a bit overwhelming now.
“I left the military last February and all my medical stuff had been dealt with by them, so I now need to register with an NHS doctor but I can’t bring myself to go and do it. I know I have to as I will need the vaccine at some point but there is something stopping me.
“I now only go out if I absolutely have to, like going to the supermarket for example. My dogs’ vaccinations are due but I don’t want to go to the vets.”
Dee works from home running the Little Sensory Box toy company, so that means she hasn’t had to leave the house to work either.
And she worries that Alfie, two, won’t want to cuddle his grandparents after a year apart.
“I really can’t explain why I feel like this. I am not scared of catching the virus or being ill, it is more about social things and relationships. My family live in the West Midlands and I live in Peterborough so I have only seen them once in the last year.
“I worry about what it will be like seeing them again, especially for my son who is only two. What if he doesn’t know who they are and won’t go to them for cuddles?"
Annabel Standen, 21, had suffered from social anxiety in the past but it had improved drastically when she started university. So when lockdown hit and she had to return home toehold feelings returned.
Psychology student Annabel explains: “The thing about social anxiety is the one thing that makes it better is exposure, so the more people you see the easier it gets. But during lockdown you can’t meet lots of people and you have lots of time alone to think and dwell on what it might be like returning to normal life.
“I didn’t enjoy school and sixth form, but when I went to university in Wales it was easier, as I didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know I was the girl who didn’t have any friends at sixth form. I started to socialise and made some really good friends, but then lockdown happened and I had to return home to my family in Suffolk.
“I do think about what it is going to be like when lockdown is lifted. It is difficult to pinpoint why it makes me anxious but it is almost like a feeling that people are going to be looking at me when I am walking around.
“University really helped me with that. When I am studying a lot I find it really helpful as it makes me feel good about myself, which then lessens my anxiety. I am currently doing online lectures which I’m enjoying so I am not looking forward to going back to face to face classes.”
It took logistics manager Phil Gorf, 54, years to come to terms with people staring at his facial birthmark and asking him questions about it.
Phil, an ambassador for charity Changing Faces, from Newport Pagnell says: “It was only about 10 years ago that I learned to deal with it. During lockdown I have spent a year working from my conservatory and when I have gone out we have all been wearing masks so I didn’t get the same questions and children staring.
“I have thought about it a lot and I didn’t think I would be worried about lockdown easing, but I am actually a bit nervous. I know I will have to prepare myself before I leave the front door for the looks and questions.
“With support from the Changing Faces charity I have learned mechanisms to cope like smiling at people who stare, or saying hello and starting a conversation with people. If my wife is with me she always gives my hand a little squeeze of encouragement.”
Natalie, 38, has vitiligo and like Phil is also a Changing Faces campaigner. Natalie has a growing Instagram following where she is an advocate for body positivity and championing visible differences.
But she is feeling anxious about returning to normal after lockdown.
She says: "My concerns with lockdown, aside from feeling anxious about being back in social settings, is showing my skin, especially during the summer.
"It's something I've found myself thinking about of late as the weather has got better. My skin has got worse on my body and I want to continue enjoying summer without feeling as though I should cover up.
"I went out a few times last summer without tights because it felt 'quiet' outside but after April this won’t be the case, so I feel like it's something I have to prepare for...
"There is definitely a difference between what we share online and when we are out in public because we have more control over what we share and show, whereas outside we don't have that option. Also there are people that don't use social media, so they are oblivious to the work many of us are trying to do to eradicate the negative stigma."
Mum of two Katie Skelton says she will definitely ease herself back into normal life slowly to give herself and her children time to readjust after lockdown.
Copywriter Katie explains: “I feel a bit odd about big crowds because we have been away from them for so long. Even if I see people shaking hands on TV now it can make me feel a bit weird.
“I also think about if things will be awkward socially when we start to see people again. When I saw my parents for the first time in the summer when lockdown was eased we didn’t really know what to talk to each other about as we had all just been stuck at home doing nothing and going on the same walks everyday.
“My husband is a real extrovert and can’t wait to get back out there doing things so I think we will have to find a balance to what he needs to help him thrive and so that I don’t burn our.
“I think we will definitely ease back in gently and avoid places at first that are going to be really busy or crowded.
"It took us all time to adjust to lockdown and I think it will take us all time to readjust to the new normal.”