Dr Maxine Harrison
The Coronavirus lockdown in the UK had a great impact on many of our day-to-day lives. All of a sudden, we felt less pressure to be socially active and we became more relaxed about missing out on social gatherings because they were prohibited. Since we were all in the same boat, any feelings of FOMO (the fear of missing out) were left behind. Now that lockdown has drawn to a close however, something new has taken its place.
Before lockdown descended on the 23rd of March 2020 many people experienced a fear of missing out or FOMO. This was fuelled by social media where it seemed that others were always having a better time, doing more interesting things or having more friends. The advent of lockdown, where no one has been allowed to see friends or family, in many ways removed that pressure and people started to feel more relaxed. Initially, there was a frenzy of messaging, video calls and on-line sessions but even that subsided as people’s stress levels fell and we got used to what has been termed the “new normal” and FOMO took a back seat.
As we emerge from weeks of strict lockdown that “new normal” is now driving something else: FOGO (fear of going out). This is driving anxiety about resuming our old lifestyles with all the old insecurities we fear will return. We may be asking ourselves: Will I look different? Will my friends still like me? Will I be chosen as 1 of a group of 6 now allowed to meet in a socially distanced way? Will I be invited to sit in their garden?
Lockdown itself has caused mental health challenges but the lifting of restrictions brings for many a sense of trepidation and unease. While some cannot wait to get out and about, others are experiencing a lingering fear of the coronavirus, which makes them wary of being close to others and concerned about travelling on public transport, where masks are now compulsory to wear, although some appear bent on removing them to drinks their coffee. Others are experiencing sadness about the loss of things they gained during lockdown – more time with their family, a shorter commute, forgetting about that haircut, or even just wearing their pyjamas all day.
We are social creatures and can cope with change, even if that change is returning to a slightly different version of our previous lifestyle. Remember anxiety leads to avoidance which in turn heightens fear but our mental health is improved when we are socially connected.
For those who had a positive experience of lockdown, its end may bring some reticence about re-entering a more hectic life and with it those pressures to see friends, to have a good time, to get out of their pyjamas may be returning with a rush. With FOGO trying to take centre stage it’s important to remember it’s okay to feel uncertain and anxious about novel experiences - remember it will become your new normal if you face it and embrace it.