It’s been a year of uncertainty, strangeness, and fear, but as the pandemic recedes, we’re slowly going back to normal. The CDC’s recent update that you can take your mask off if you’ve been fully vaccinated has offered us an opportunity to begin going back to our lives post-pandemic. For the majority that’s a relief, but it also causes increased anxiety for many. You’re not alone if you’re asking, "Can we trust what the experts are saying, and why do I feel anxious about living my life the way I did prior to the pandemic?"
What once seemed normal, such as hosting a dinner party or attending a wedding, may feel stressful now. We’ve spent a year at home in pajamas so even getting dressed up and putting on our heels can make you feel tired. If you’re one of those people that are facing re-entry anxiety, I have five suggestions to help ease your anxiety and help you cope with stress.
1. Be honest about your boundaries. Begin now examining your boundaries about what makes you comfortable and what doesn’t. This helps you advocate for yourself so you don’t get talked into something that makes you uncomfortable. For example, if you feel strongly that you only want to sit outside at restaurant and only want to have meetups with vaccinated people, then be upfront and direct. When we have a plan of what we will and won’t do, we feel more in control which can ease anxiety.
2. Don’t rush yourself, start slowly and steady. Many people feel urgent to get caught up and back in the rat race again. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Schedule your social get-togethers and keep your calendar centered on the self-care habits you learned while in quarantine. Businesses have opened their doors and you may be going back to work, but you don’t have to enter the race to do it quickly.
3. Prioritizing what you love as you re-enter. Many people changed during the pandemic. They’ve gotten a clearer picture of what is most important to them. Looking on the bright side and reminding yourself of the people and projects you love can help turn your anxiety into excitement.
4. Disconnect when you need a break. It’s important to know updates of what’s happening in the world and your community. But scrolling through social media contributes to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, so disconnecting with an hour break each day helps you feel less anxious and restores calm.
5. Talk to a mental health professional. There is a normal level of anxiety many people struggle with right now that the above suggestions can help with. However, if your anxiety begins to affect your sleep, work, or relationships, talking to a mental health professional is advised. Whatever you’re feeling right now, by accepting and acknowledging it, you are taking the most important step towards practicing good mental health.
Rules change overnight, but our minds taking longer to adjust. Giving yourself plenty of time to re-enter a different workforce or lifestyle is key to restoring calm and providing optimism in beginning a new chapter in your life.