We’ve been living through a global pandemic for over a year now, but the moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: lockdown, in many places, is ending.
As more and more people receive their Covid-19 vaccines, the CDC and local governments are starting to ease up on guidelines like social distancing and mask requirements. Although caution is still required, it feels like a light at the end of the tunnel: soon enough, we’ll all be returning to “normal” (whatever that will look like).
Many people, however, aren’t feeling as relieved and happy as they thought they would be with the end of lockdown. If you’re feeling anxious and fearful about the end of lockdown, you aren’t alone. Psychological experts are calling it re-entry anxiety, and it’s a completely normal emotional reaction to this transition.
So how can you deal with the nervousness you’re feeling so that you’re able to enjoy life after the end of lockdown? In this article, we’ll give you the tools you need to be able to cope with your emotions and get back out there.
5 Tips to Cope with Re-entry Anxiety
If you’ve realized that the symptoms of anxiety you’ve been feeling are due to lockdown ending, you aren’t alone. This is a difficult and strange time for the entire world, and we’re all feeling the effects of what we’ve been through this past year.
At the same time, anxiety in any form is a treatable condition, and there are ways to cope with re-entry anxiety in healthy ways. To start getting a handle on your nervous feelings as lockdown ends, try following these tips.
There are science-backed relaxation techniques that can help you ease the symptoms of anxiety. Practicing relaxation doesn’t mean going on an expensive vacation or getting pampered at a spa (although, of course, if that’s your idea of relaxation, then there’s nothing wrong with that, either!).
All it takes to practice relaxation is to find ways to slow down your body and your mind. One evidence-based way to do this is through progressive muscle relaxation. To practice this simple but effective technique, clench your muscle groups one at a time, then fully and intentionally release all tension. Start with your legs, and work your way up to your face muscles. By the end, you should feel that all the tension in your body has melted away.
Stay informed about what’s really going on with the pandemic and lockdowns. If you’re one of the many people who are facing re-entry anxiety, there are probably endless questions swirling around in your head. Questions like: “Do I still need to wear a mask if I’m fully vaccinated?” and “Is it now safe to travel internationally?” are ones that most of us are asking ourselves. Not knowing the answers to them only makes anxiety worse.
Check the CDC and your local government’s guidelines to stay up-to-date on what precautions you should still be taking to stay safe. Being equipped with accurate information will help you cope with the anxiety of lockdowns ending.
Take Baby Steps
Start small when you’re venturing back out into a fully-functioning society. Even if you have been fully vaccinated, you don’t need to attend a large social gathering if you’re not feeling ready for that yet. Start with doing things that you feel safe doing, like getting together with one or two friends who’ve also been vaccinated.
At the same time, it’s important not to completely avoid things that make you feel anxious. Exposing yourself, little by little, to post-pandemic life will help you to get over your anxiety one step at a time.
Don’t Go Back to “Normal”
Yes, this pandemic has been incredibly hard for all of us, some of us more than others. Too many of us have lost people we love to the virus; more have dealt with stress about finances and employment. And of course, we’re all relieved that we’re finally starting to put this treacherous time behind us.
But there might be things that have changed in your life over the past year that you’ve actually come to appreciate. We’ve all learned important lessons during the pandemic. Maybe you’ve realized that you were packing in your social calendar too tightly and that you need some more alone time to recharge. Maybe working from home has been a blessing that’s allowed you to spend more time with your family.
You don’t need to go back to what your “normal” was pre-pandemic. Take the newfound wisdom you’ve gained during the past year and find ways to implement them even after lockdowns end. Talk to your employer about the possibilities of working from home. Don’t forget the important lesson that life is fragile, and that time spent with our loved ones is what makes life worth living.
See a Therapist
Lastly, don’t rule out getting professional help from a mental health provider. Just because almost all of us are facing re-entry anxiety right now doesn’t mean that it’s any less real or painful. A therapist can help you to make sense of what you’ve been through over the past year and how you want to move forward. They can also teach you helpful coping tools to deal with the anxiety that you’re facing.
Seeing a therapist is especially important if you already dealt with mental health issues pre-pandemic. There’s still a lot of stigma out there in some communities about getting professional support for our mental health, but seeing a therapist is nothing to be ashamed about.
Re-entry Anxiety Is Normal
It’s normal to have mixed feelings about lockdown ending. Yes, we’re all ready to return to the parts of public life that we miss, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is feeling carefree about it.
If you’re feeling anxious about the return to “normal” life, there is nothing wrong with you. This is a complicated transition for everyone, and we’re all in this together. With these tips, you’ll be able to get over the hump of re-entry anxiety and fully enjoy post-pandemic life.