Coping with Re-entry Anxiety After Covid
For much of the last year we’ve all been receiving messages like “stay home” and “stay safe”. More recently, the messages have changed and we are being encouraged to step out of our bubbles and reconnect – whether that means a gradual return to work, seeing friends or family in person, or being able to head back to the shops. It can take some time to change or undo messages we’ve been hearing for such a long time and so it’s pretty natural that we may experience an increase in anxiety as we try to navigate these changes.
Many feel happy about the relaxation of restrictions, but there remains uncertainty; have I had my vaccines, what is the threat out there, and what about the future?
What is re-entry anxiety?
Re-entry anxiety is fear of the changes that occur when we start to get our lives back to how they were – socialising, travelling, working. Leaving our bubbles can trigger a range of thoughts/concerns such as:
- Worried about the risk of COVID-19 (contamination/transmission)
- Uneasy about mixing with lots of people
- Uncertain about changes in your workplace
- Nervous about doing your job again
- Anxious thoughts about being in crowded spaces
- Having nothing to say in social situations
- Being concerned about your appearance and how people may judge you
- Feeling that you don’t want things to change too much or go back to the way they were before
These thoughts can grow and develop in our mind, to such an extent that we start questioning whether we are OK and whether we can succeed again. After a year of feeling safe and protected in our bubbles, choosing which clothes to wear, how and when we speak to others and having had almost no physical social interaction, it’s inevitable that getting back on the Tube, eating in a restaurant or working alongside a colleague can be seen as challenging.
Helping to managing your anxiety
To help manage these changes and reduce the impact of anxiety, it’s important to also focus on how beneficial some of the changes may be:
- Being able to see colleagues again
- Being able to separate your home and work life
- Getting back to a routine that you’ve missed
- Expanding your world from a few rooms to many
- Seeing loved ones in their own space rather than via Zoom
We can also check out what things have been put in place to help mitigate any risk, such as finding out what changes your workplace have made to mitigate COVID, i.e. extra hand washing facilities, use of screens, staggered hours to reduce travel during busy periods. We can also do some personal things which can help manage and reduce anxiety:
- Breathe deeply into your belly, using your diaphragm. Try to make the inhale and exhale of equal length.
- Create some self-soothing statements which you recite internally: “It will be fun to see my friends again”, or, “I used to like these sorts of events” “I’ve got lots of experience of this” “People will respect my boundaries”.
- Go for a walk-in nature and remind yourself of your connection to yourself, other people and the planet.
- Talk to others and check out how they’re doing
- Organise a meeting with a psychotherapist or counsellor who can help with many of these concerns.
We’ve all been through a tough and unpredictable year, using up resources to make and manage it. So as we now start our return towards the life we knew, we need to be compassionate, understanding and recognise that some days we’ll manage better than others.
Click here to learn more about Anxiety Counselling at KlearMinds.