By Hannah Aslin, MAC
Re-entry anxiety – the 2nd pandemic. Gather ‘round everyone. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the past year-and-a-half plus. Not the greatest time, right? COVID was a super difficult, unsettling, weird, and confusing time. Although it may have presented itself as an opportunity for self-discovery, healing, and growth, it also became a time when the entire world settled into an interim normal (you know, working from home, enjoying more time relaxing, picking up a new hobby, spending time with family members, getting a pet, etc.). As things in the world and our country are starting to change (again), we are faced with a transitional period that potentially brings up a lot of anxiety in everyone. This response to the transition has a name: re-entry anxiety.
Re-entry anxiety can present itself in various ways, and there is definitely not a shortage of individuals facing this phenomenon.
Some of the numerous sources of this anxiety include leaving pets at home for an entire workday, having to get back into the groove of interacting with co-workers, commuting to work, parents concerned about childcare, and finding a comfortable balance between social interaction and alone time in order to recharge, just to name a few.
These are all valid anxieties and concerns that both individuals, as well as society as a whole, are facing right now as we hit “play” on life after the 14-month “pause”. In order to keep re-entry anxiety from wreaking complete havoc on your life, it is valuable to know some healthy ways to address and navigate re-entry anxiety. Here are just a few:
1. Focus on things that you can control.
For a lot of people, anxiety increases due to uncertainty, particularly surrounding things that they cannot control. In order to lessen the anxiety caused by that uncertainty, check in with yourself frequently and discern what is in your control.
2. Accept all of the feelings.
Greif, excitement, fear, hope. You might experience all of these emotions and more during this transitional period. Know that that is okay. Any emotion that you feel is valid and normal. No need to be so hard and judgmental of yourself and the way you navigate a novel situation.
3. Ease into reintegration.
After being cooped up inside for more than a year, it would be super easy to feel pulled to jump back into exercising your freedom head-first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of loading my calendar with a bunch of fun and social things in order to make up for lost time. But, in order to avoid being burnt out and feel dissatisfied, it is better to ease back into everything. Take it slow and don’t over-commit straight out of the gate.
4. Alone time is okay.
Again, being isolated for an extended period of time can lead to a sense of needing to be engaging in socially as much as humanly possible. Sure, go and have dinner with friends, go to a movie, go for a group hike. Those are all great things. But don’t underestimate the value of alone time. We all deserve and need the time and space to recharge our batteries, and that’s also great.
5. Life is going to look different.
The last piece to note is that who we were when we entered the pandemic is vastly different than who we are now as we begin our long-awaited exit. Our physical, mental, emotional states, our job, our relationships. Everything looks different. The sooner that we accept that that is okay, the sooner we will be able to take that first step into re-entry and writing a new and improved chapter of our unique stories.
Change is difficult and, for some” a “new normal” doesn’t seem attainable or fulfilling. If re-entry anxiety gets to be too much for you to carry alone, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. We’ve got this, y’all!