How to Deal with Pandemic Anxiety as Restrictions are Lifted
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed widely, it feels like there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But what if you’ve gotten used to staying in and only seeing small groups of people at a time? We have adjusted to a somewhat isolated life because of the restrictions that have been in place for over a year now. But restrictions are slowly easing and the world is reopening piece by piece. There is a lot we still don’t know which might be causing some of us feelings of worry or stress. What can you do to manage the anxiety that might come along with this reopening? If you are feeling overwhelmed, try implementing these tips:
Make a list
What is it that you really want to do now that you can go back to local restaurants, shops, and places? Try making a list of things you really want to do now that things are opening back up. Then, plan how you can go about visiting these places and doing these activities safely while following new guidelines.
2. Be vocal
Vocalize your boundaries with friends and family. If you don’t feel comfortable removing your mask or meeting indoors, make that clear to them. That way there will be no miscommunication and you will not feel anxious or stressed about how they might unknowingly make you uncomfortable. Some family members or friends may not be supportive if a person sets boundaries. If you have difficulty asserting yourself in a difficult relationship, struggle with standing up for yourself and feel heard, try having a conversation on the subject of lifting restrictions first.
3. Have alone time
Whether it's meditation, coloring, or going for a walk, make sure you still take time alone for yourself. Carving out daily time for yourself will help you manage and work through your stress. Making sure you have space from others will also help minimize the feeling that you are doing too much too soon. We may have had a lot of alone time this past year, but a complete lack of it might make you tired and stressed out. Take time rest, recharge, and prioritize the things that you really enjoy doing solo.
4. Ease into things
As mentioned above, jumping head first into a packed social schedule might feel too overwhelming. It can be tempting to fill your week with as many activities and outings as possible but it is important to ease into things. You don’t need to re-enter society immediately when it opens. Each day or week, try to widen your scope of activities at a comfortable pace until it feels normal again.
5. Focus on the facts
Read up and educate yourself on current guidelines and practices so you know exactly what to expect and how to act in public spaces. If you know the risks of gathering publicly or going to communal spaces, you will feel better equipped and less anxious about unknowns. When guidelines change rapidly or appear ambiguous, that can increase our anxiety. When we are experiencing anxiety, we want to control our environment and have a specific plan to navigate our lives that feels as certain or low risk as possible. Risky situations like the pandemic that have a large amount of uncertainty or ambiguity are exactly those types of experiences that promote anxiety, but staying educated on the facts and changes can help with this.