How to deal with the disappointment of the Freedom Day delay – and keep going
16th June 2021

We may have had our suspicions that the hyped-up Freedom Day of June 21 wasn’t going to happen, but that doesn’t take the sting out of the massive disappointment of it being postponed.

It’s only natural to feel a bit crumpled.

Plans have been made and will now be cancelled or pushed along. The things we were looking forward to, that kept us going through the lowest days of lockdown, have been snatched out of our grasp.

It’s hard to pick that excitement and motivation back up – especially as the Government has already warned that the new date of Freedom Day, July 19, could be delayed again.

Nevertheless, we have to keep going. We have to find ways to keep our spirits up for at least the next four weeks, and beyond that.

So, how do we do that?

Recognise that it’s normal to feel upset

Look, you can be all about lockdown and public health, and still feel more than a little deflated that Freedom Day has been delayed… and miserable at the prospect that it might be delayed again.

‘For some people it is more than a disappointment,’ psychologist Dr Audrey Tang tells Metro.co.uk. ‘For some June 21 may have been a last hope… we can stay afloat until then but no longer.

‘We may be feeling that there has been enough uncertainty in our lives over the last year and a half – do we really need any more right now?

‘Uncertainty has long been a source of stress because it means we cannot make clear plans for our future… we cannot anticipate future threat nor even possibly do something to eliminate it.

‘This year has demonstrated to many of us that we are resilient beings, but resistance to constant stress wears us down. Add to it the lack of control we have felt over the last year, we are at the very least mentally and emotionally uncomfortable.

‘Many of us have been craving a sense of “predictability” (perhaps more so than normality) – think: when I book a holiday it’ll definitely happen, or if I have theatre tickets I can look forward to the show.’

Don’t get stuck in the ‘what if’ loop

It’s tempting (and fair) to criticise the way our roadmap out of lockdown was handled. And you might keep thinking how the disappointment might not be so major if the Government had simply said July 19 in the first place, rather than being too ambitious and then having to backtrack.

Audrey recommends against this.

‘Rather than exhaust what is left of our energy ruminating on things we cannot change, it is far healthier and more effective for us to look at what positive impact we can make,’ she explains. ‘This is where a focus on building our resilience – centring ourselves and gathering our emotional and mental fortitude for this final push- can help us most.’

Give yourself something to look forward to

The promise of a looming day when restrictions would drop and everything would be possible may have been the one thing keeping you going.

Don’t try to run on empty. Instead, just find something else to look forward to.

Choose something that isn’t dependent on lockdown easing, – think a really nice picnic, rather than a holiday abroad – plan it out, and enjoy the anticipation.

Don’t put off joy

But alongside having something exciting in the near future, it’s vital you don’t just twiddle your thumbs until that day arrives.

Do little things to make yourself happy now and every day.

Audrey says: ‘While this may be a delay – don’t give yourself a “wait problem”. The “wait problem” is putting off happiness until… for example, I’ll be happy when we have that party; I’ll be happy when we can all go to the football match together; I’ll be happy when there’s a full audience in the theatre.

‘Happiness is a state not a goal. You can choose to be happy right now.’

Set goals

This is another way to keep yourself looking forward. We’re halfway through the year now – what do you want to achieve in 2021? What do you need to do to make that happen?

‘While you may be tentative because our recent experience is that anything can change, having a focus, with flexibility or alternatives, means you have something to work for, and look forward to,’ Audrey notes.

‘Try writing down your aims, and then breaking down those goals into smaller steps – some of which you might be able to start right now…no matter where the finish line ends up.’

Find time for you

We know it, you know it: self-care is important. Don’t let this fall by the wayside just because plans have changed.

Every day, make some time to do one thing that’s just for you, that makes you feel good.

Maybe that’s watching some ridiculously trashy reality TV, reading a book, really taking a moment to savour a nice cup of tea, an ice cream after work. Whatever feels right for you, make a commitment and make sure it happens.

Get into a class or volunteering

We might not be able to go to clubs, but there are other ways to get that socialising hit.

Volunteering is proven to make you happier, or you could try a new class. Something that you can commit to regularly, where you can engage with like-minded people, can do a world of good.

Don’t forget your physical health

‘Remember that your physical health can affect your mental wellbeing,’ Audrey advises. ‘Eat, sleep and exercise – getting the blood pumping can help clear your mind.

‘Simply getting out can help you get more Vitamin D, and boost serotonin levels, which can increase feelings of happiness.’

Make your living space somewhere you want to be

You’re probably sick of your home space, after spending the majority of the past year cooped up inside it.

That means it’s the perfect time to give your interiors a bit of a refresh. Just changing up your environment could be enough of a boost to carry you through the coming weeks.

Keep socialising

Try as hard as you can not to let the delay deflate make you retreat into isolation.

It’s likely that as restrictions started to lift, you had a flurry of park dates and one-on-one hangouts planned. Keep those up. Those interactions are the little lifts you need right now.

Express gratitude

There’s all sorts of evidence to suggest that expressing gratitude makes you happier. In a time when it’s easy to spiral into negativity, this is even more key.

Audrey suggests: ‘Cherish the positive influences surrounding you. Good friends, supportive colleagues, opportunities… it’s not just about writing them in a gratitude journal.

‘Reflect on what got you through lockdown and actively appreciate the efforts with some in return.

‘Perhaps even drop them a line saying “I’m thinking of you” – there’s something still so lovely about a handwritten note.’

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, mental health & wellness expert and author of new book The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, Pearson, £14.99

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Follow us on Twitter at @MentallyYrs.

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