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The key thing to remember is to go easy on yourself, and “be accepting and compassionate of the things you’re feeling,” she says.
4. Reintroduce activities slowly.
After being cooped up in our homes for so long, you may feel like you never want to take your freedom for granted again. It might be tempting to plan a get-together, a restaurant outing, and a road trip all in one week. But you may want to hold off on making too many plans too fast. “Practice saying no because we need to pace ourselves,” Dr. Bonior says. “Otherwise, you might exhaust yourself and find yourself disappointed thinking, ‘What’s wrong with me? How come I didn’t feel great going out?’”
Instead, take things slowly. Ease into new activities by seeing one friend at a time or planning shorter local trips (if it’s safe in your area). Be gentle with reintegrating into society or you’ll risk burning yourself out by over-committing to everything all at once.
5. Stay informed, but disconnect when you need to.
Staying informed is important, especially when it comes to updates in your community that will help you safely start doing more in the world again. But being too plugged in to the news or social media can contribute to anxiety, depression, and general stress.
That’s why it’s a good idea to notice when your doomscrolling is no longer productive—and to start taking steps to step back. You can filter the information you take in by limiting the time you spend scrolling on social media, getting your information from only reliable news sources (rather than your Instagram feed), and remembering to take time away from screens can help ease some of the anxiety about what’s to come.
6. Accept that your life may have changed quite a bit during the pandemic.
You may be coming out of lockdown with your life—your body, your job, your relationship—seriously different than when you entered it, and that could be contributing to the anxiety you feel, Dr. Burnett-Zeigler says. But accepting that reality, and the idea that things may never return to how they used to be, is crucial Dr. Burnett-Zeigler explains.
When you accept your reality, it will be easier to take control and plan your next steps intentionally. That understanding will also help you remember that, over time, the anxiety that comes with reintegration will lessen.
“It’s not unusual for people to have difficulty with transition; that’s what we noticed at the start of COVID and that’s what we’ll feel as we transition back to the reentry phase,” Dr. Burnett-Zeigler says. “I think that for most people, reentry anxiety will go away if they manage it in a healthy way.”
7. Reach out for help if you need to.
If you’ve tried to manage your anxiety but find you’re still not making progress, it might be time to evaluate how severe your anxiety really is and possibly work with a mental health professional.
“There’s a normal level of anxiety that we’ll all be feeling, and that doesn’t automatically mean we need to seek professional help,” Dr. Bonior says. “The key is to ask to what extent it gets in your way.” If your anxiety is beginning to affect your work life or your relationships with friends, family, or romantic partners, those are signs that it’s time to chat with a professional. And if you find that you’re experiencing physical symptoms, such as headaches, tightness or tension in your neck and shoulders, stomach aches, or difficulty sleeping or concentration, those are also signs that it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional, Dr. Burnett-Zeigler says.
Getting back into the world may seem like just as big of a life-changing transition as it was to switch to remote work, hold all your weekend chats over Zoom, and stock up on face masks. While some people may find it unbelievably exciting, others are likely finding the idea of reentering society to be quite stressful or maybe both. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to acknowledge and accept where you’re at and, if needed, find some productive ways to feel comfortable safely returning to your pre-pandemic activities.