Negative thoughts and worries about the future in general
Social anxiety about having to be “on” or in-person again with friends, family and colleagues
Avoiding public places or large crowds because you’re scared of meeting or interacting with a lot of people
“By taking the time to reflect and have an idea of why you’re afraid, you can slowly begin to take the necessary steps to address it,” says Baty.
Gonzales-Berrios notes that since post-pandemic re-entry anxiety is normal, people who have it “need to follow certain self-help tips to overcome the anxiety slowly and start living normally.”
6 tips for re-entry
Here are six tips for re-entry:
Try exposure therapy . Go shopping, see friends, get out and about and do something you missed most during COVID-19. “Progress slowly and allow yourself to experience a little anxiety before moving toward the next level of exposure,” says Gonzales-Berrios. With some time, the fear element will subside.
Get some exercise. Whether it’s a walk, a swim or a yoga class, exercise eases anxiety, calms jittery feelings and restlessness and restores clarity. This can work wonders in alleviating your post-pandemic anxiousness.
Connect with others. No matter what your routine looked like pre-pandemic — hermit crab or social butterfly — connecting with others may be what you missed most. So, talk to friends or family about your fears, how they’re feeling and how everyone is handling re-entry. This can provide hope and comfort in helping you get out of your shell.
Focus on what you can control. “You can control your breath, where you go, who you see and whether you wear your mask,” Baty said. “When you intentionally choose to focus on what you can take action on, you start to eliminate ifs and buts and any fears associated with those. It is extremely powerful.”
Remember that you are not alone. Lots of people are experiencing the range of emotions and feelings that you are. Talk to others who are struggling, read the Next Avenue article on what’s known as “ cave syndrome ” and find the things that make you feel better — whether that’s nature, music or hobbies.
Consider talking to a professional. If your re-entry fears prevent you from living your best life, you may want to meet with a therapist. A few sessions with an in-person or virtual therapist can give you some tools to help you push past your anxiety and get back to living.
Angold has the right idea. “I am easing back into post-pandemic life as I have returned to face-to-face work and have started to go out a bit but am certainly taking things slowly and doing what I am comfortable with,” she says.
For now, though, Angold’s avoiding large events and activities until she feels on firmer footing. But she says the small outings she’s taking will soon lead to bigger ones. And she has congratulated herself for all the things she is doing.
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who also writes for MSNBC, Fox News and AARP.
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