Managing Re-Entry Anxiety

(June 9, 2021)

Since March of 2020,

most peoples’ lives have been completely turned upside down. Everything that we considered normal and safe, we had to reevaluate. Masks have become a normal part of day-to-day life, and hand sanitizer is ubiquitous in every business and household. We, as a society, have adjusted to life with COVID 19. Many of our social lives were put on hold due to these changes. We took to staying in our homes and ordering takeout, discouraging family gatherings this past holiday season, and not going out in public unless we had to. Many things, therapy included, were being done virtually. Many of us have not set foot in our offices in over a year, and have only socialized in very small, outdoor, or masked settings. 

Suddenly, as large parts of the population have gotten or plans to get vaccinated, COVID 19 cases seem to be decreasing, and our lives, once again, have begun to change. Mask mandates no longer exist in lots of places. The CDC tells us that those of us who are vaccinated can go out in public without masks or attend mask less gatherings with other vaccinated people. We are suddenly allowed to be around other people again. 

You can manage your re-entry anxiety

Despite this new data, many of us still don’t feel comfortable leaving our homes without a mask. Social gatherings feel exhausting.  Going out to restaurants or to the movies feels totally foreign. We have become homebodies by necessity and many of us are comfortable with this new normal. 

With the ability to go out in public without a mask, or at all, can come a tremendous amount of anxiety. How do we know it’s safe? Is it socially responsible to go to a family barbeque? Why am I so depleted after spending time with a friend catching up? Will I be seen as a jerk if I go to the store without a mask even if I’m vaccinated? 

All these questions are normal. We have adjusted, and going back to life more like it was can feel very strange and anxiety inducing. Many of us have not spent time with friends regularly for more than a year, and do not have the same social bandwidth we once did. We cannot expect to make that adjustment as quickly and easily as we may have once hoped. 

So what can we do to adjust to this new normal?

  1. Practice self-compassion. Going to a family gathering? Give yourself a day to recover, even if you may not have previously needed one. Planning for the weekend? Try going out with friends one night, instead of having plans for both Friday and Saturday. You are adjusting, and you need to give your brain time to catch up.
  2. Wear a mask if it feels more comfortable, even if you don’t have to. It’s ok to continue wearing a mask if you feel like you want to. Many people are choosing not to, and many never did in the first place. Go at your own pace.
  3. Ease into larger gatherings. If you’re not yet comfortable going to a wedding right now, don’t. It’s ok to start with smaller gatherings or spending time one on one outside. Try not to avoid social situations altogether, but it’s ok to start slowly.
  4. Talk to a professional about how you are feeling. COVID 19 has created a lot of new mental health needs for our society. Many people who never had therapy in the past are looking for someone to talk to. We have been experiencing a massive, systemic trauma and it is ok to get help. 
  5. Give it time. Just as we all adjusted to staying home, we will adjust to the ability to go out again. This may not happen immediately, but humans are extremely adaptable. With time, we will have a new normal. It may not look exactly like things did prior to COVID 19, but we will get more comfortable being around each other. 

The world is constantly changing, and right now is no exception. Practice self-compassion in all things, but especially right now, and ask for help when you need it. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with re-entry anxiety, give us a call today at 217-203-2008 or email us to schedule an appointment.