The New York Times recently wrote a primer for those who are struggling with how to re-enter the world, post vaccine. It is understandable, given that we have been told for a year to lock down, stay socially distanced and wear a mask when we leave our houses in order to keep our self and others safe and healthy. I have heard several clients share how challenging it is for them to go from one extreme (living in lockdown) to another (engaging with the wider world, in public). Here are a few thoughts on how to navigate that transitions:
- Dip your toe in the pool. Find incremental ways of phasing back into prepandemic situations. Maybe it’s having a cup of tea outdoors unmasked, hosting a friend indoors or taking public transportation at nonpeak hours.
- Don’t wait for the anxiety to completely disappear. One expert suggested training your anxious nervous system like a pet. Help it recognize that you are not in danger by doing activities that might make you a little anxious. Once you’re in that situation, try to stay there until the anxiety starts to fade.
- You don’t have to replicate the “before times.” It’s OK to pare down your social calendar or nix draining activities. Figuring out a healthy balance between “doing” and “being” was a worthwhile effort before the pandemic, and will remain so. It is ok to embrace the positive changes you made during the pandemic, like spending more time with family.
- Let go of resentment. As the adage goes, you cannot control other people, only yourself. Frustration toward those who behave differently than you will only raise your stress levels. There is no universal “truth” that is applicable to everyone, especially now that we are living in a time when some are fully vaccinated and others are not. CDC guidelines vary for a reason, and they are likely to change as Covid becomes more endemic.
- Prioritize things that reduce anxiety. If you developed a love affair with processed foods, reacquaint yourself with fruits and vegetables. And if you stopped exercising during the pandemic, start moving again. By taking care of your body you are also taking care of your mind.
- If acute anxiety persists in ways that are detrimental to your life and/or relationships, seek therapy.
Until next time, peace