Can you feel it??
That’s the tension in the air as the UK holds its collective breath ahead of ‘Super Saturday’ – the day the hospitality industry wakes up again.
For many, this is a turning point in lockdown – after all, restaurants, cinemas, bars and pubs (especially pubs) are our social spheres, where we spend a large chunk of our lives, and we’ve missed them.
It’s then completely natural to feel excitement at the prospect of some semblance of normality returning, but unfortunately, this could also be the perfect recipe for disaster.
There you are, in your finest clothes, with your best pals, cold pint in hand or with a delicious expensive meal in front of you.
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Granted you’re sat behind a screen, told not to yell or sing if you can avoid it and all the staff members are wearing masks, but even so, the day you’ve been yearning for is finally here.
Yet, you don’t feel ecstatic. In fact, it’s all a bit anti-climatic.
And suddenly, guilt and anxiety set in, and you start to question why you’re not happy.
Why is this day not as amazing as you imagined?
Why going out this weekend might not feel as great as you expect
‘It has been months since we last stepped foot in our favourite socialising spots, and there is the societal expectation that we should be celebrating and drinking with joy,’ Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist who specialises in helping people create positive spaces, tell us.
‘This is understandable, given that humans crave the autonomy of choice, and for most people this will have been the first time they have had rules enforce upon them restricting movement, spaces and connection.
‘Being given the choice to go and entertain yourself freely again can only be a good thing – but the reality isn’t as black and white.
‘In the heat of celebration, we still have the underlying anxiety caused by the reality that COVID hasn’t just disappeared.
‘We will have to judge and adapt to how much space and contact different individuals are comfortable with. This already starts to prime us to constantly be thinking about the climate.’
Lee explains that even though we have been given our freedom back, it comes with dramatic changes that are noticeable as soon as we step inside our venue of choice.
Your mind registers ‘environmental cues’, and this could negatively affect your experience.
The feeling of guilt of going to the pub can also be compounded by another layer of guilt: “survivor’s guilt”; surviving COVID-19 when hundreds of thousands were unfortunate
Lee says: ‘Add to this, the room will be full of environmental cues, with every barrier, distance marker and sanitising station consistently reminding you of the potential danger.
‘We are not culturally conditioned to see people in masks and gloves outside of medical settings, and this again plays on our subconscious mind, inciting worry.
‘Every time we see something that isn’t normally there, or has been installed due to COVID, we are psychologically hooked back to thinking about something that has the potential to end our life.’
Another issue that might present itself is a form of survivor’s guilt.
Even if you or your social circle hasn’t been directly affected by coronavirus, we know that half a million people have died due to Covid-19 – and whether we actively think about this or not, it will likely register on a subconscious level.
Thus, you feel guilty for enjoying yourself or taking part in this kind of social activity, even though it has been approved by the government.
How to cope with anxiety and guilt over socialising in lockdown
‘After a few weeks of self-isolation, it is understandable that some people may experience anticlimactic feelings, especially with anxiety and guilt over going to the pub,’ says Dennis Relojo-Howell, founder of psychology website Psychreg, explains.
‘The feeling of guilt of going to the pub can also be compounded by another layer of guilt: “survivor’s guilt”; surviving COVID-19 when hundreds of thousands were unfortunate.
‘A starting point for you to navigate this feeling is to acknowledge it. If you feel that you are distressed by the constellation of these feelings of anxiety and guilt, you can benefit from receiving psychological care.
‘It is important to understand that anxiety, trauma, and guilt are all relative to your own experience during lockdown.’
Dennis adds that a useful way to cope with negative emotions of this kind is to talk to others who can give you a ‘nuanced perspective of the situation’.
If you are meeting up with friends and have planned a big night, it might also be useful to explain your fears to them before you head out.
This way, they won’t be upset or surprised if you decide to leave early or cancel altogether.
Additionally, prepare yourself – don’t build up the excitement too much in your head.
‘There might not be the same jubilation that we imagined as we are still expected to keep socially distant,’ says Phillip Karahassan, a psychologist and counsellor.
‘Try not to let your imagination colour your expectations of your experience.
‘Remember to keep safe and also go into this experience without the expectation of the freedom you remember before lockdown.’
Phillip, who is a member of Counselling Directory, adds that anxiety and guilt are two separate states – and it’s important to differentiate between them so that you know how best to deal with each state.
Anxiety: ‘The best way to control anxiety is to know what makes you anxious and plan how to negotiate the anxiety to keep you empowered and safe.
‘Try and stay in control of your surroundings , have a think about the boundaries of yourself around you and when is the right time to leave.’
Guilt: ‘Guilt on the other hand may be present thinking about others who are stuck at home and also the thought of acting in a potentially irresponsible way.
‘Just like anxiety, know what your boundaries are, respect the social distancing measures and know when enough is enough, so that the guilt of going out doesn’t taint your experience.’
It is also be useful to be informed and read up on new rules when it comes to drinking or dining out- and you’re in luck, because we have put together a comprehensive guide for you.
If this weekend isn’t you wanted it to be, that’s okay. Equally, if you decide not to go out, that’s also okay.
Allow yourself the opportunity to tap out. Having drinks at home or over Zoom can be fun, too.
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.
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