When the mask update was lifted, I had friends who jubilantly rushed headlong into frenetic activities, going out to dinner, to movies, to big box stores, even to water parks. My friends at church are starting to ask me when I’m coming back. Committees are restarting. Zoom is being replaced by in person meetings for business or leisure. But my reentry has been a bit slow.
It’s not only me. 49% of Americans report some measure of reentry anxiety. Many of us lost people we love, some of us lost our jobs and had to reinvent ourselves, and some people just got used to staying home.
Reentry anxiety people fall into two groups, generally speaking. One group is still afraid of catching or transmitting the coronavirus, and the other group is experiencing social anxiety and is afraid their social skills may be too rusty. People who are introverts experienced the lockdowns differently. With no demands to “People” and to make small talk, or to leave the house frequently, etc. some people felt, well, a secret sigh of relief.
I don’t mean to downplay the terrible toll the pandemic played on our country, indeed, on our world. I lost extended family members, I had people I loved pass away from non-virus causes and could not attend their funerals, and I nearly lost my mother from complications of her own bout with the virus—twice. But I’m talking about just the day to day life changes. Suddenly, there were no business meetings, no committees, and no guilt for just wanting to stay home.
For those suffering from reentry anxiety, mental health professionals have offered some positive steps to take.
1. Take small steps, not giant leaps. If you know you have to go back to the office, drive past your workplace and imagine going in. Go to a restaurant on a night that won’t be as crowded. Shop at a small store for a few things before returning to the big box stores. Have a buddy system with someone you love so you can mutually support one another.
2. Give yourself permission to feel this way. Emotions are not right or wrong. It’s how one deals with them that can be positive or problematic. We’ve all experienced trauma to some degree in the last year and a half. We lost touch with friends, lost people to the virus, lost jobs or job status, and it’s okay to feel the effects.
3. Make a list of things you would love to do now that the lockdowns and travel restrictions are lifted. It doesn’t have to be a big trip around the world. Maybe a day trip or just a trip to your favorite store to see all the new seasonal merchandise. Things that make you happy or bring you joy, no matter how small.
4. Get help if you need it. Many people feel guilty or weak if they seek the advice and support of a mental health professional. Actually, wanting to overcome and work through obstacles is the strong move, and good for you for taking that step.
I love staying at home. I am an introvert, like many writers. But I’ve missed my loved ones and just the normalcy of running to the store for a gallon of milk. We can do this. Good on us!
Have you experienced any reentry anxiety? Leave a comment below.