Managing Post-Pandemic Anxiety As You Re-Enter Society

Woman experiencing anxiety as she stands with hands on her face in the middle of a crowded street with blurred out pedestrians.

With all U.S. adults now eligible for their COVID-19 vaccine, we’re closer to “returning to normal” than we’ve been in over a year. But that’s a big change—and change can be stressful.

According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Americans say they feel uneasy thinking about in-person interaction once the pandemic ends. If you’re feeling nervous or anxious about reentering social spaces after a year of social distancing, you’re not alone.

Why Am I Feeling Stressed About Re-Entry Post-Pandemic?

Psychologists say that change of any kind can cause stress and anxiety, even positive changes. Last year we faced a changing world, one that required us to adjust our habits, stay home and stay isolated in order to keep ourselves and our families safe. Now, we’re used to the idea of isolation equating to safety, so it's natural that our minds and bodies would need some time to readjust to what was normal before the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our mental health in a number of ways, and feeling stress over re-entry is completely normal. This might include stress over going back to work at your office five days a week or stress over your kid’s safety in the classroom. Re-entry stress can also feel like overwhelm or apprehension when it comes to planning travel or summer activities with friends and family. 

No matter the reason for your stress, there are some important strategies that we can all use to manage feelings of anxiety as we re-enter the world, post lockdown.

Woman biting her nails in anxiety standing in front of a pink background.

Make a plan with your pod.

Whether your pod is limited to your household or if it includes a few other close friends or family, these are the people you’ve trusted and protected throughout the pandemic. Sit down with your pod to discuss how everyone feels about going back to work, spending time with other groups, traveling, etc. If you work together with your trusted pod to make sure that you have clear boundaries around what you do and don’t feel comfortable doing, then you’ll feel more in control of the situation and less likely to get overwhelmed or stressed.

Start small and take your time.

If going out to a bar or riding on public transit feels like too much for your anxiety, don’t push yourself too quickly. Regardless of how fast your city reopens businesses, you can choose to reopen your own life at a slower pace. Start with small groups in situations that you can control - like an outdoor picnic, or a movie night with friends. Or maybe you need to get used to being back in the office before planning anything else—just start with a few small steps, then go from there!

Focus on what you’re excited about doing.

Make a list of the activities you’ve missed during the pandemic and the ones you’re most excited to get back to. Does eating lunch at a cafe sound like a treat to you? Or maybe you’ve been dying to have friends over for dinner so they can see your newly-decorated kitchen? Focusing on activities that will be fun and joyful is a great way to shift away from anxiety and stress, similar to the way that focusing on gratitude can make us feel more grounded and abundant.

Practice self-care and use tools to help keep your cool.

Self-care routines are important for keeping your mood and body regulated all the time—but especially when you’re feeling stressed. A daily or nightly self-care routine that nourishes your body, mind, and spirit can address stress, and also help prevent anxiety in the first place. Check out the Virus Anxiety resource for tips and tools to help you build a daily-self care and anti-COVID stress routine.

Herbal allies like CBD, chamomile, lavender and lemon balm (an amazing plant that packs a powerful punch in our stress STIK!) are delicious additions to your routine that can help reduce anxiety and calm the mind instantly. We love to stir a Fast-Acting CBD Wellness stress STIK into a cold glass of water, or brew iced tea from fresh organic herbs.

Get support from a mental health professional.

If you’re doing all you can to manage your stress but are still feeling overwhelmed, then you might benefit from the expertise of a therapist. Talk therapy is extremely useful for identifying and relieving stress. You can reach out to your health provider to find a therapist, or try the Talkspace therapy app for an easy-access and socially distant experience. We also love the daily self-care

Stress shows up differently for everyone, so everyone will require different solutions. It’s important to try out different stress management techniques in order to find the one that feels best for you!

And just remember, that no matter how anxious returning to society after the pandemic may feel, you’re not alone. You survived the stress of an entire year of pandemic lockdown, so be kind to yourself and have compassion.

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