As the world begins to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we keep hearing optimistic news indicating that things are getting back to something close to the way they used to be. After more than a year, it sounds pretty exciting, right?
Not for everyone.
If seeing that phrase makes you feel anxious or fearful instead of excited, it’s perfectly understandable. We’ve all been going through something that has drastically altered our lives for over a year. And now, our lives are going to significantly change again. Change of any kind can be stressful, so even though these changes are (mostly) the good kind, they can still make you feel anxious and stressed.
Experts refer to the stress, fear and anxiety people are now facing about returning to life as we knew it as “re-entry anxiety.” Here are 4 tips to help you cope with these feelings as life returns to normal.
Take control of the things you can.
There are likely some looming changes you’re just not ready for. Maybe you’re used to working from home, wearing pajamas all day and not having to commute to an office. Or you’ve decided you really enjoy the convenience of food delivery, rather than spending valuable time at the store.
The good news is that you might be able to control some of these things. For instance, if you’ve enjoyed working from home and are productive doing so, talk openly and honestly with your boss about continuing that arrangement. If you don’t want to go back to grocery shopping, keep supporting the delivery services.
Feeling more in control of what’s happening, rather than feeling like you have no choice about how your life is changing, can help ease your anxiety.
Concentrate on the positives.
What are the things you’ll be happy to do again? Focus on those things. Maybe it’s something simple like hugging a friend, going to a sporting event or making a haircut appointment. Or you’re excited to start wearing “real” clothes again and you’re ready to go shopping for some new outfits. It could be something bigger, like finally going on that European vacation that was postponed twice. Whatever you’re most excited about, thinking about that is sure to make you feel a little more comfortable with re-entry overall.
Go slowly – there’s no need to rush.
Be gentle on yourself and realize that successful re-entry might take some time – just as it took time to get used to staying home. Maybe you’re not quite ready to travel and you can postpone that vacation one more time. Or rather than going back to the salon, you let your hair grow a bit more. Perhaps you’re not ready to sit in a doctor’s waiting room. One benefit of the pandemic is that convenient telehealth options could be here to stay.
If you’re still uncomfortable being close to people for fear of getting the virus despite loosening restrictions, keep up with the precautions you’ve already been taking like wearing a mask, social distancing and dining only outdoors.
Get help if you need it.
If your anxiety is severe or your stress is causing issues with your mental and/or physical health, consider talking to a professional. Ask your primary care doctor or health insurance provider for a referral to a therapist who can help you cope with the very real issue of re-entry anxiety. If you don’t feel comfortable seeing a therapist in person, there are telehealth options available for mental health care, too.
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