Earlier today, as I was leaving home for a walk in the streets of Paris, I came across the manager of a nearby antique shop. The shop had been closed since mid-March and as we started to chat from one sideway to the other, the first thing he said was: “It’s been so hard to get out of home”. Today was his first day back to work and we spent minutes discussing the feeling of anxiousness that many share at the moment.

During the 8 weeks where France was locked down (March 16-May 11), I went out less than 8 times and each time, I rushed back home, although a couple of days before the end of lockdown, I relaxed and walked along the Seine river banks. The weather was gorgeous, spring was blooming, and the city was amazingly beautiful. Silence was striking though.

Today, Paris is no longer quiet. Parisians are back, but in a strange way. There have never been so many joggers on a normal Wednesday. Many people wear masks which is pretty reassuring in a way. On the contrary, seeing an unmasked person coming your way and talking on the phone feels scary. As I went into a shop, I was scolded by a salesman because I did not follow the new flow direction…

So why is it that unlocking down seems more difficult than locking down for a number of people and what can be done to resume our lives more easily?

Unlocking down does not mean going back to normal

Going out of lockdown does not mean getting our pre-Covid lives back. The sheer number of deaths is unbelievable, thousands of people have been infected, some badly, and too many are still fighting back to recover. People have lost their jobs or will lose them in the coming months. Uncertainty is at its height and unlocking down is bringing the world into a new “abnormal” life.

Lockdown was an eye-opener on what we expect from life

Lockdown has extracted a number of people from their daily routines, some of which had been going on for years. Being forced to stay at home, working or not, has changed our daily scenery. No more commuting, no more endless days at the office, no more shopping for unnecessary items. Instead, many people discovered they had time to cook, to be with their partner and kids, to have deeper conversations than usual with their family and friends. This is likely to bring many to reassess what they want from life. 

“Do I still want to work 60+ hours a week and never get to have dinner with my family?” 

“Do I still want to live in a crowded city, looking forward for week-end escapes and holidays?” “Do I still want to commute everyday?” 

“Why not move to a smaller town and grow a garden while working from home?” 

Hidden values and dreams will emerge from this period, leading a number of people to challenge their lives and seek significant changes.

The unknowns of unlocking down

Unlocking down does not mean the pandemic is over. Science is unfortunately no more advanced than it was two months ago, and no treatment has emerged to ensure recovery. Vaccine is still a long way down the road and the likelihood of having to co-live with Covid for a while is pretty high. 

At this point, we can easily see how home may indeed appear like the safest place on earth. So, what can one do to start embracing the end of lockdown?

Deal with your discomfort

First of all, name what makes you feel uncomfortable about unlocking down. Is it fear (of being infected or of infecting your family)? Is it that the life you had before lockdown is no longer the one you want to have now? Do you feel uncomfortable about going back to work and being challenged about your achievements and KPIs during lockdown? 

Whatever it is, name it. Identifying the source of your discomfort will help you design the best way to face it. Don’t hesitate to share your feelings with others, at home or at work, so that people know where you stand. Likewise, invite others to express where they are right now (if they feel like sharing this).

Then, identify what can ease your discomfort. It can be to wear a face mask whenever you go out or even in the office. It can be to avoid public transportation, chosing to walk or cycle to the office. It can be to agree with your manager that you can still work from home (if only partly). 

Take it one step at a time

Psychiatrists state that people will need an adjustment period before moving forward. It has taken people time to adapt to lockdown and similarly, it will take them time to adapt to the end of it. Take it easy and go as quick or as slow as it seems feasible to you. If you are still working from home and are not prepared to go out everyday, don’t. Instead, take small steps towards regaining confidence, like going out for a walk every two days and see how you feel.

Set new goals and objectives

What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?

What resources have you realized you have? 

What use will you make of such resources going forward?

Conversely, what do you want to get rid of from your pre-Covid behaviors or habits?

This period has been so intense that it may have triggered major moves within you. Keeping track of them is a fast-learning process from which you can draw new actions, and possibly a new life.

Wishing you the best for the weeks to come.