Many of us are, in one way or another, experiencing “re-entry” or what others call “reopening anxiety” as a result of having adjusted to months of being at home under lockdown. For some, “remaining in the cozy comfort of home appears infinitely preferable to venturing into the outside world. In short, they feel better staying in the shell,” says the American Family Publishers (AFP). While some anxiety is normal and even good for you, too much can lead to serious problems. If you feel like your anxiety may be getting the better of you. Try this:
Separate fear and caution
If you are still isolated because of fear and not by choice, learn more about the virus, how it is transmitted, and how you can protect yourself. It will be less mysterious and more personally manageable using tactics in public like social distancing, wearing a mask, and continual handwashing and/or sanitising.
Limit your exposure to social media and media in general
The virus coverage is constant, limit your consumption to once in the morning and once in the evening and you will be up to date without being overwhelmed. Also, make sure all the online information you pass on is from reliable medical sources only.
Educate yourself about advancements relating to Covid.
Things are changing rapidly and keeping up with the positive trajectory can cause you to feel curious instead of cursed. It will help counter and balance the frightening headlines and help you look at the pandemic with some distance and objectivity. This is not the first pandemic, nor is it the last.
Prioritize what you can control
Instead of focusing on what is uncontrollable, focus on what you can control. Make decisions that will help you manage your worry and stress. Recognizing and working on what you can control, can be a valuable step in overcoming anxiety. Having a re-entry partner could also help you stay sane and controlled.
Be present in the moment.
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day is key. Mindfulness involves non-judgmental attention to and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness practice can help reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance emotional well-being (1). Certain studies show that mindfulness based interventions can create positive brain changes (2). One example of a simple mindfulness based practice is breathing exercises which can help one feel calm and grounded. This occurs through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system which is linked with relaxation. Lowering of heart rate and blood pressure, lowering of stress hormone levels, are some of the other effects seen with mindfulness practice. Optimal benefits can be achieved when practicing regularly, even if it is only for a few minutes a day.
Pay attention to your unique situation.
It is important to consider context in understanding your experience with re-entry anxiety.
Your re-entry anxiety may have additional, valid reasons- for instance, if you are 60 years of age or above, or suffering from underlying health conditions(s). Especially in this case, it is important to consult your physician before making any re-entry decisions or plans. Your physician would take into account your age, medical conditions and your unique circumstance to determine your risk level, and make recommendations for next steps accordingly.
Find fulfilling ways to be engaged.
One can take a few minutes out of their day to engage in activities they find fulfilling, such as, playing games, listening to your favourite music, learning a new skill, journaling, etc. This is good for one’s emotional well-being.
Take things slowly
When trying to engage in activities that might cause re-entry anxiety, it is important to take things one step at a time. In the sense of Covid-19, instead of going straight to restaurants, one can order food from home as a way to get comfortable with the idea of eating takeaways. In relation to resuming work or school, one can start going to work or school every third day as a way to ease themselves into the environment.
Schedule a time to worry
Scheduling a time during the day for worrying can be a useful strategy to manage anxiety. Select a time which you schedule as a ‘worry period’ for 20-30 minutes every day. When worry related thoughts arise during other parts of the day, postpone those to the worry period. Reflect on and consider your worries during the 20-30 minutes of worry period you would have scheduled daily. This technique tends to be more helpful when practiced regularly.
The pandemic has caused many to feel isolated. We know that social connectedness is a positive, protective factor for mental health. The good news is that technology makes it possible to stay connected with friends and family members, while exercising physical distancing, so stay connected.
Tips sourced from 10 Tips to manage re-entry anxiety related to the Covid 19 pandemic by Richa Bhatia, MD, FAPA