- Some people are eager to get out and about, while others prefer to stay at home for fear of contracting COVID-19.
- For those who are not yet ready to ‘go back to normal’, it’s easy to feel a sense of overwhelming anxiety.
- If you are feeling anxious about spending time away from home or going to the workplace, these 5 strategies can help.
From North America to New Zealand, governments have started to re-open their economies, slowly encouraging people to go out and about.
While some individuals have jumped at the opportunity, many others continue to hunker down at home for fear of exposure to COVID-19.
This is normal.
Afterall, most people have been in lockdown since early March, if not beforehand. Feeling apprehensive about resuming our ‘normal’ day to day activities is, therefore, understandable. The COVID-19 pandemic upended our daily lives and completely redefined what’s normal.
For some, wiping down groceries with disinfectant is now their new normal. For others, it’s lathering their hands in hand sanitizer everytime they touch anything outside their homes. Still for others, it’s wearing a mask, gloves, and a face shield… with some even adding goggles to the mix.
Though in some places it is safer now to go out than before, that doesn’t mean that the risk to contract COVID-19 sits at zero. Reality is that many individuals will catch the virus in the coming months.
This doesn’t make matters easier for those who are not yet ready to ‘go back to normal’.
The good news is that as time passes, scientists’ understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is continuously increasing. So even though we are still some ways from having access to a vaccine, there is definitely a better understanding of where there is more risk for transmission and what types of activities could be deemed low vs high-risk.
Re-entry anxiety is not just about going back to the workplace, though this certainly seems to be a common denominator for many professionals. Re-entry anxiety is also about returning to use public transportation on a regular basis, eating out at restaurants, hitting your favorite bar, going to the mall, or even just getting together with some friends.
How to Ease Re-Entry Anxiety
Though it can be hard to deal with this anxiety, there are some strategies that people can use to soothe the nerves and find it in themselves to slowly resume pre-pandemic normal activities.
In fact, some level of anxiety can even be healthy, as it can encourage individuals to follow public-health guidelines and follow protocols that can help protect them and others around them (i.e. use of a face mask, physical distancing while waiting in line, washing their hands more often, etc.).
Anxiety can become a problem when it interferes with someone’s daily life. In this case, anxiety can be harmful when people are scared of leaving their house and when they’re avoiding resuming low-risk activities like going for a walk in the park.
Below are some strategies that can help people better cope with re-entry anxiety.
1. Be patient with yourself
Understand that your feelings are normal and that they are valid. Rather than trying to convince yourself that you’re exaggerating and comparing yourself to others, take some time to understand where the fear and anxiety is coming from. The pandemic has disrupted our lives in various ways and just as it took some time for people to get adjusted to being stuck at home, it will take time for people to get adjusted to feeling comfortable going back outside and resuming some activities.
2. Set boundaries
You may find that checking the news helps you feel reassured and can calm your nerves… or you may find that doing so does the exact opposite. Whatever works, make sure that you’re setting some boundaries so that you don’t find yourself going down a rabbit hole. Additionally, if you are going to venture outside, set some boundaries that you feel comfortable with (i.e. only going out during certain times of the day, staying out for a specific amount of time, going back home if you start feeling uneasy, etc.).
3. Baby steps
Even if you see others around you being completely comfortable with going to the mall or the local pool, if you’re not up for it, don’t push yourself to go. Instead, take it slow and take baby steps into re-entering. You might go to the park for a walk, stroll around your neighborhood, or go to the grocery store in-person for the first time in months. Don’t let yourself feel pressured to participate in activities that you are not yet comfortable with.
4. Take care of yourself
Focus on eating healthy, nutritious meals and keep yourself hydrated. If you know that you are doing everything you can to keep your body healthy and in optimal shape to fight an infection, you may see your anxiety ease off little by little. On a similar note, take care of your mental and emotional health; if you find that dealing with the anxiety by yourself is too much, consider reaching out for help.
5. Talk to your employer
If your employer is asking you to go back into the office and you don’t yet feel comfortable with it, consider reaching out to your manager and letting them know how you feel. Many organizations are allowing employees to keep working from home for longer if they’re struggling with re-entry anxiety.