After spending many days isolated inside your house due to the pandemic, things are finally starting to return back to a “kind of normal”. While some people can’t rip their masks off quick enough, others are paralyzed by thoughts of returning back into the office, going to school in-person, gathering with friends & family and resuming life outside the house. If you’re struggling to resume a “normal” life after the pandemic, you’re not alone. Many people are feeling FOGO-fear of going out. “Over the past year it’s been ingrained in people’s minds that interactions with others, especially in enclosed spaces can be dangerous, if not lethal, so many people may find themselves anxious at the thought of re-entry into society” Sheva Rajaee, Director of the Center for Anxiety and OCD. If you’re currently struggling to shift back to whatever “normal” means for you, here are some tips!
Accept the struggle: Change is rarely ever easy for someone struggling with anxiety, this is okay. Practice validating your struggle. For example, “It makes sense that I’d be anxious to attend a party, it’s been a long time.” By accepting the struggle, you’re allowing yourself to feel the way you’re feeling and going with the feeling rather than resisting it. Remember from my previous blog Stop Avoiding Your Anxiety, “Anxiety goes up and down like a wave, if you learn to surf it, it will never crush you” Washington Post.
Establish your comfort zone: Take some time to think about what the current societal rules are and then establish what makes you comfortable outside your comfort one. For example, if you’re going to a place that doesn’t require masks and this increases your anxiety, think about what you can do to make yourself feel comfortable within your own control.
Think realistically: You’re anxious and have FOGO, because of this you’re likely to endure the return to “normal” with discomfort. THIS IS OKAY. Visualize yourself in the situations that are triggering to you and then come up with some ways you will cope. Simple steps like this can make a huge difference in the moment.
Identify your support system: Anxiety can make a person feel isolated. Think about the people in your life that are there for you. While you’re anticipating the return back to “normal”, so are many other people who will be right there by your side. Essentially, everyone’s going through it together. Who are the people in your life that you want to share these experiences with again? You’re not alone.
Take it slow and think of the big picture: Remember that the pandemic may have put you out of practice in many areas. It’s understandable. Small talk may be awkward, you may fear feel weird without a mask or being outside the house may feel exhausting. With practice everything can be relearned and each time can get better and better.
Identify the positive: While the anxious mind wants to grasp onto every possible outcome that can go wrong, you must put the effort in to remind yourself of the good. What are the positives of the situation? This set takes self-awareness, tremendous effort and sometimes counseling. The way you respond to a situation has a lot to do with the thoughts behind it.
I challenge you to stop resisting your anxiety over the shift back to “normal” and instead take it with you and practice the steps above to cope. It’s uncomfortable, annoying, frustrating, scary and at times unbearable- but so are many things in life because it’s not perfect. If you need help to take the above steps, there’s strength in admitting this. You can call A Little Counseling and we’d be glad to help or point you in the right direction. Either way, YOU CAN DO THIS! Remember, there once was a time when Zoom and masks weren’t a thing 😉