Tips to boost your self-confidence after lockdown

Get your self-assurance back on track and feel more confident in any situation with our expert guide.

Smiling people

Phone, keys, wallet? Check. Mask and hand sanitiser? Check. Leaving the house feels a little different these days. Since the global pandemic, we’ve all had to stop and assess where we’re going, who we’re seeing and what the current restrictions are – which can make everyday events seem a little nerve-racking. 

“Fear of the unknown can increase anxiety levels dramatically – with COVID-19, there was little we could do other than follow the directions given,” says Luke McLeod, a meditation teacher and founder of soulalive.com.au. “We’re not used to not being in control. This vulnerability can then build internal tension and a lack of confidence because you feel quite helpless.” 

As life and some regular activities begin to return to normal, you may find yourself feeling a little tentative about going back to a crowded music venue or travelling interstate. Here’s our guide to finding your new, more confident normal. 

How to…

Attend a large public event

With controlled outdoor events returning in most states, you might feel torn between wanting to get back to regular life and feeling quite unaccustomed to being in a crowd. To feel more at ease, try some mindfulness tools, which have been shown to give you a greater sense of self-efficacy – that is, a belief that you can achieve or overcome something. “As you walk into the crowd and on your journey there, stay present by focusing inward on your breathing. Or use the environment around you as a focus: what can you smell, taste, hear? Mindfulness pulls you back to the present, so you are not worrying about past events or catastrophising about what could happen in the future,” says Dr Michaela Pascoe, a mental health and mindfulness researcher at Victoria University. 

Get back on an aeroplane

Airports used to be exciting places that promised adventurous travel to far-flung destinations – until they became one of the first places to be shut down during the pandemic. As some airlines increase the number of daily flights and interstate travel opens up, you may be feeling nervous about flying again. First up, know the facts: according to JAMA, the medical journal published by the American Medical Association, the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is low. Modern planes maintain clean air by circulating a mix of fresh air and air recycled through HEPA filters, and risk is lower than contracting the virus from an office building, classroom, supermarket or commuter train. “The best way to overcome a fear is to face it,” says Dr Emmanuella Murray, a clinical psychologist. “Consider the necessary precautions (masks, hand sanitiser, social distancing) and then live your life. Facing these situations will help to reduce anxiety over time.” 

Attend a job interview 

During the peak of coronavirus in May 2020, one in every five employed people in Australia had either lost their job or had their work hours reduced, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Looking for a new job is daunting, as you inevitably have to take rejection on the chin and keep going in the face of stiff competition. “Make sure that during your job search, you continue to do the small things that make you feel good, such as going for a swim in the ocean, joking around with your friends or listening to music,” says Luke. His advice for feeling more confident during an interview? “Make sure you eat beforehand! We tend to feel more nervous on an empty stomach. Do some deep breathing to release that anxious energy, followed by five to 10 minutes of meditation beforehand, which will help pull your mind out of the increased mental activity.” 

Apps like Headspace have some great mini meditations to help you quickly get into the right frame of mind.

Meet new people

The idea of meeting new people again – whether it’s through dating or going back to your place of work – can raise a lot of questions. Will they be okay if you still want to practise social distancing? Have you lost your ability to make small talk? Right now, most of us are feeling nervous about this, says Luke. 

“It’s natural to feel a little awkward while meeting new people again, and, trust me, they’ll be feeling exactly the same way. Acknowledge that with new people you meet. This two-way process can help build up your own confidence levels,” he advises. 

Dr Pascoe recommends more self-compassion; try being more patient with yourself. “That can help you have more confidence to go out and try new things because you think, ‘it might be difficult, but that doesn’t mean I’m failing. I will support myself through this’,” she says.

Go back to the GP

While COVID-19 symptoms seemed to trump any other reason to talk to your doctor in 2020, many of us put off getting a check-up for other health concerns. There were 96,000 fewer visits to the GP during the March lockdown last year in Australia compared to the same time in 2019, according to data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Professor Garry Jennings, cardiologist and chief medical advisor of the Heart Foundation, warned at the time that this would mean that health conditions like heart disease and diabetes could slip out of control. 

Before you make an appointment, call the clinic or check its website to find out what’s being done to keep people safe during the pandemic, then go ahead and see your doctor and discuss your fears with them while you are there. “If you avoid visiting your GP, or don’t attend important specialist appointments, it only makes your fear worse,” says Dr Murray.