My Reentry into the New Normal
“Our brains love routines. They save energy as we transverse the same pathway with ease. We created new patterns in the first 30 days of quarantine, and we spent more than a year engraining them. Many people are feeling even more anxiety as restrictions are lifting and expectations are rising,” said Eva Ritvo, MD Eva Ritvo M.D. | Psychology Today
I thought I was invulnerable to the Pandemic and the need to stay in place and practice social distancing. After all, that’s how I’ve been living because of my chronic lung disease.
I’m so grateful that I can breathe that I learned to put aside my frustration at no longer being able to participate in most activities face to face. Instead, I spent a lot of energy working with organizations to add online participation. Zoom became a lifeline!
But something shifted as everyone hunkered down as COVID-19 took hold. There was a universal fear fomented by the ever-changing guidelines as to how to avoid becoming infected. Each day was heart wrenching as more and more people, many whom I knew, got horribly ill and way too many died in isolation.
The effect was physiological as well as psychological. Every time I coughed, I started to panic that I had been exposed to the coronavirus. I cancelled all non-essential appointments and moved my doctor’s appointments to telehealth. Some I couldn’t move online, and I had to force myself to breathe as I entered medical buildings.
Once I got vaccinated, I saw a glimmer of light. At the same time, I was nervous and unsettled. I was experiencing COVID transition anxiety, a feeling of nervousness about reentry and participating in all my activities that stopped around a year and a half ago.
So, what can we do about COVID re-entry anxiety? How can we let go of our unease as restrictions continue to lift this summer?
1. Get Curious
Shift your mindset about your fears and anxieties. Instead of being judgmental about your feelings, get curious. There’s a collective sense of grief, mourning, and shock that’s well-earned. Ask yourself how this makes you feel.
Then, whatever the answer is, remain curious and accepting about your feelings. You’ve been through a lot. How you’re feeling today isn’t indicative of how you’ll feel forever. So be curious about your process instead of being hard on yourself.
2. Admit how you’re feeling
If you’re one of the millions of people who is feeling COVID re-entry anxiety, fess up. Be honest with yourself. What are your fears about social interactions? You can’t begin to feel better without acknowledging how you feel in the first place.
3. Consider How Much Control You Have
Some anxiety is good. It tells us when we need to make changes in our lives. So consider how much control you have in the situation that’s causing your anxiety.
Is your upcoming social interaction necessary? Is your mind trying to keep you safe? Can you make changes in your life to mitigate some of your stress? List what you can control and make adjustments accordingly.
For the things we cannot change, there’s always reframing how you think about them. Reframing an experience doesn’t mean pretending bad things are good. But it is an opportunity to look at situations from a different, and hopefully less anxiety-provoking, angle.
5. Shift Your Focus
You can also shift your focus during a stressful situation. Instead of being on the lookout for confirmation of your worst fears, why not watch out for some good stuff too? Continue to check-in with yourself and see how the ‘new’ normal is working. Decide If you need to tweak your reentry.
Here’s how I’m managing my reentry into the new normal:
- I’ve decided to take my reentry one step at a time. This way I can comfortably monitor how I feel and make sure I allow myself to embrace the good feelings, smile and allow myself to breathe!
- I contacted a close friend and arranged to meet her outdoors at a favorite coffee shop. I didn’t allow myself to focus on negative what-ifs. I started smiling as I got out of my car and didn’t stop. When it got too hot it was time to go and I mentally checked off my first successful outing.
- With the relaxed facemask mandates and the virus variants, I decided to wear my facemask whenever I go into a store. This keeps me from the “what ifs” being around people who are not wearing facemasks. I know what I need when I enter, have my credit card ready, smile and thank the cashier for her help and leave the store. Once outside I reward myself by taking off my facemask.
- I incorporate deep breathing throughout the day to keep from getting anxious. I practice Qigong, a system of body-postures, movement, breathing, and meditation, that increases my energy, health, and spirituality.
Most important, I fulfilled my commitment to restart My Continuing Journey. Please join me!
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about ways to reentry our new normal.
Be well and enjoy!!