When the COVID-19 first began, many of us had to alter our day-to-day lives. While you may have previously gone out with friends, worked in an office space, and traveled on crowded trains or buses, all of that changed last year. At first, it was hard to adjust to a “new normal,” but more than a year into the pandemic, many of us have gotten used to it.
Now, with vaccines rolling out and a possible end in sight, many of us are anticipating another shift in day-to-day life. Unfortunately, not all of us are prepared to return to a “normal” life, causing feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. If you feel anxious about the pandemic ending, you are not alone — fortunately, there are things you can do to cope with entering back into the “normal” world.
Why Is There Anxiety About Returning to Normal?
When the pandemic first began, nearly every aspect of our lives shifted to a remote setting. Most schools shut down and opted for online schooling, people started working from home, and we were encouraged to avoid going out unless necessary. After a year of maintaining remote lives, it has become routine for most people.
Because we are now used to remote lives, there may be anxiety surrounding the idea of returning to normal. You may feel paranoid about getting sick, even after you get the vaccine. Or you may feel concerned about the various strains of COVID-19. It may be hard to determine why you feel anxious. The pandemic has exacerbated our fear of illness and instilled a sense of paranoia. Many of us now associate being home with being safe and being out in public with being unsafe.
Coping with Your Anxiety
If you are feeling anxious about returning to a “normal” life, you aren’t alone. Our lives are changing once again, and many people feel anxious and vulnerable about having to re-enter public spaces. We have learned over the past year to be fearful of being around people and it’s hard for your brain to switch out of that mode. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you feel comfortable and safe as you return to normalcy.
Go Out with Friends
Once it’s safe and once you feel comfortable going out in a group, considering taking an outing with a few friends. You may feel overwhelmed to enter public spaces alone, and this could lead to anxiety. By going out with friends, you will have an emotional support system with you.
Choose a slightly less crowded and invite a companion to come along. Note how you’re feeling along the way and tell your friend if you feel anxious or uneasy. You may find that your comfort will grow over time as you get used to being out and around people.
Don’t Rush Yourself
Because the end of the pandemic is in sight, many people feel eager to reconnect with people and the world. While it may seem enticing to go to a big concert or event once it’s safe enough, that may be too much too soon.
Instead, opt for small outings at the beginning. Gradually, you can test your comfort levels and see how you feel as you go. You may ease into it comfortably, or you may feel anxious. Don’t rush and try not to feel pressured to jump into public events. Allowing your brain to get used to situations in stages will help you to feel more comfortable and it will get easier over time.
See a Therapist
Therapy is effective for treating anxiety, and it can help you find the root cause of why returning to normalcy makes you so anxious. Are you afraid of getting sick, or are you afraid of being around lots of people? A therapist can help you understand the problem and give you tools to work through it.
Reentering “normal” life after a long year is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s okay to be anxious about things opening back up; remember to take it one step at a time.
At DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy, we can help with re-entry anxiety. We are trained in exposure therapy, as well as EMDR therapy and both can be helpful with this type of anxiety. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation.