“Why do I need to go to the office when work from home was turning out just fine?” asks Kamal Gupta, a Delhi-based marketing executive.
As lockdowns ease in several parts of the world and a return to (albeit new) normalcy knocks on the door, there has risen an anxious reluctance to leave the newfound comforts of isolated living. Days spent in pyjamas working with a pillow for a desk were a welcome change from the constant hustle of everyday life, and despite months of being cooped up at home, many are finding it difficult to step out.
This feeling of uneasiness at the prospect of leaving our houses has popularly been dubbed as ‘FOGO’ ‒ the Fear of Going Out in the millennial lingo.
While FOMO ‒ the Fear of Missing Out (we’re sure you already knew that) ruled our lives in the Instagram-run Pre-Covidian era, the general worry was that staying at home would make us lose out on all that’s fun and fine. Now, we’re hesitant whether going out would do the same.
While the fear of contracting the viral infection remains the primary cause of worry for most, there are a handful of additional factors that have contributed to the FOGO sentiment. Some of us are concerned about the hassles of everyday commuting (read: distances longer than bed to hall), some grieve about missing out on quality time with their loved ones, some fret over the pile of unwashed dishes at home, while some others just aren’t ready to trade in their pyjamas for pants yet.
The term ‘post-lockdown anxiety’ has been coined for this feeling of apprehension by psychologists, who suggest that it is only natural to be worried.
“Change is always difficult. We had trouble transitioning from our regular lives into the lockdown, and now that we’re on the brink of returning to an altered normal again, some apprehension is to be expected.”Dr Kamna Chhibber, Clinical Psychologist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
Many like Gupta ‒ who has seen her fair share of noses poking out of masks ‒ feel that there’s no reason to reopen the offices so soon when all the work could be managed from home.
For some others, the lockdown had presented the perfect excuse to avoid needy friends and nosy relatives, and now the impending revival of these social engagements seems daunting. “We’re invited to a relative’s fiftieth birthday party next week. I don’t want to meet so many people again already, but refusing the invite looks rude too,” says Delhi resident Vaibhav Sharma (name changed).
Also, isn’t the inconvenience of the ‘normal’ not reason enough to keep some things as they are? Ayan Bindra, 20, certainly thinks so. “During the lockdown, we were too afraid to step out and even ordered our groceries on the phone ‒ it was so easy. Now, I can’t imagine having to go to the market to buy small things like Maggi or tea leaves.”
Stepping out into the terror of the microscopic enemy has also annoyed us in other ways. “While wearing a mask, my glasses fog up, so I have to keep taking them off and cleaning them when I’m outside these days,” complains Vaibhav. The constant sanitising of everything from door handles to the change the shopkeeper hands you can also make you want to just stay at home.
Wait ‒ is our FOGO slowly starting to sound a little like JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out)?
Tips to Battle Post-Lockdown Anxiety
To help us keep things in check, Dr Kamna Chhibber offers some valuable advice.
“Arm yourself with realistic and reliable information, and take necessary precautions” says Dr Chhibber. As the pandemic surges forth, the possibility of contracting the infection is not implausible. Simple measures like wearing masks and sanitising your hands regularly can go a long way in protecting you from the virus. However, if you continue to have anxious thoughts at the prospect of being in public spaces, make sure to question the rationality of those ideas.
Confide in your loved ones, talk to them about your concerns, and seek professional help if you feel the need for it.
Dr Chhibber also offers tips to help you gently ease back into your routine. “Make small and gradual changes to your lifestyle,” she says. Gupta says “I used to wear saris to work before lockdown, but at home, I got used to wearing more comfortable clothes. When my office reopened, I did not want to bother with saris again, so I wore suits or jeans for the first few weeks.”
As we dust the cobwebs off our calendars, many are also finding it difficult to navigate their social obligations again.
“Pacing yourself is important. If you feel you aren’t ready to be part of a larger social gathering, you can start with meeting one person first. Meeting fewer people in a comfortable setting can help you get accustomed to being around others again.”Dr Kamna Chhibber
It is also important to note that being part of large gatherings continues to be a risky endeavour, and should be avoided as recommended by the government, especially in regions with higher infection rates.
The lockdown period has also taught us to appreciate various aspects of our life better. While certain relationships may have fizzled out, some others may have emerged stronger during this time. You might also have discovered that simple activities like game nights with your family can help you take the edge off your anxiety. Inculcating such positive changes into your routine will make embracing your ‘new normal’ life easier.