The restrictions put in place during the pandemic are now being relaxed. The UK government has advised that people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 should consider being extra careful. This is especially important if case numbers are high in your local community. It’s understandable that having to take these extra precautions might make you feel anxious, angry or upset.
The pandemic has also increased accessibility for some disabled people. This is because things such as working from home and events being streamed online have become more common. For this reason, you might also be worried about things going back to how they were before.
How is the easing of restrictions impacting disabled people?
Heather says: “During the lockdowns my husband and I pretty much isolated ourselves as much as possible because he would be unlikely to survive COVID-19. Our concern is that nothing has changed for us, and the levels of COVID are rising again. People are less considerate. It’s almost as if everything is back to where it was before the pandemic. For people in our situation, this has raised our anxiety levels as we will not be able to go back to being “normal” any time soon. We’ll need to be even more vigilant than we were already.”
Nat says: “I’m basically deaf in my left ear. I often can’t hear what’s going on in noisy places and that can be stressful. Noises can also make me jumpy because I don’t always know where they are coming from. I think this has been heightened after being locked down for so long. I have found it quite disorientating going back out into the world.”
Rosie* says: “I have a chronic illness and so I worry about how catching COVID-19 would affect me. I’ve been following the rules very strictly since the beginning of the pandemic. Now everything is opening up there’s a lot of pressure to start socialising again, but I don’t feel ready to back to “normal” just yet.”
Top tips for coping with restrictions easing
1. Set boundaries
Explain to your friends, family and colleagues the steps you’ll be taking to keep yourself safe. If you feel comfortable doing so it might be helpful to let them know why, but you don’t have to. Remember that you aren’t being difficult or unreasonable by being cautious. If people challenge your choices, you could try showing them this article.
2. Open up
Try to connect with other people. Talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling so that they can better understand what you’re experiencing. It might also be helpful to speak to people in a similar situation as yourself. You might be able to access this kind of support though a relevant charity. Speak to your GP if you feel like your situation is having an impact on your mental health.
3. Ask for help
Don’t be worried about asking for practical help if you need it. For example, asking a friend or neighbour to collect some shopping for you. If you’ve found working from home has been helpful for your condition, talk to your manager about whether this is something you can continue to do.
Top tips for helping a loved one
1. Be supportive
Take the time to listen to their concerns and try to be reassuring. If they’re worried about staying safe, ask them if there is anything you could do that would put their mind at ease. This might include not hugging them when you meet up or doing a lateral flow test beforehand.
2. Make accessible plans
When you’re arranging social events try to make your plans accessible. Could you sit outside? Could you all agree to watch a film over video chat rather than going to the cinema? Why not ask if there’s a certain pub or restaurant that your friend or family member would feel most comfortable visiting?
3. Stay in touch
If your loved one is spending more time at home, make sure that you keep in touch with them. This will make sure they don’t feel excluded as the world opens up.
If you feel the pandemic has affected your mental health, speak to your GP. There are also some charities that can offer help and advice:
Mind offer online resources and information over the phone
0300 123 3393 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday)
Samaritans offer support via phone or email, and their website has lots of helpful resources
116 223 (24 hours a day, seven days a week)
*name has been changed