How to Manage Post-COVID “Reopening” Anxiety
We’ve heard a lot over the past year about COVID-related anxiety. It used to relate to fear of catching the virus, or unemployment/financial worries. But now, as the pandemic appears to be nearing its end—and states reopen and people resume a more “normal” life—a new type of anxiety is starting to emerge: reopening anxiety.
There are many reasons for these feelings of uncertainty and emotional unrest as the country starts getting back to normal.
As has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of unknowns remain, causing confusion and stress. Fear of the unknown isn’t the only type of anxiety on the rise with the reopening of America.
After a year and a half of Zoom meetups and Facetime chats, a lot of people are out of practice when it comes to socializing in person. Now imagine how a person with social anxiety must feel! Naturally, many people are looking forward to reestablishing their social lives—parties, dinners, concerts, etc.—but those with a history of social anxiety will likely have a hard time figuring out how to comfortably reengage in social situations.
Navigating Your Emotions
Back in the thick of the pandemic, a lot of people probably thought that one day the pandemic would end and things would go back to…2019.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Post-pandemic life can definitely be joyful and exciting, but there will be ups and downs as we navigate our emotions in this new world.
If you’re experiencing any type of anxiety as it relates to the reopening of the country, here are some tips that may help you:
Focus on what’s in your control; let go of the rest.
Anxiety is fueled by the unknown. This is why it is most helpful to focus on what you know you can control. For instance, you can’t control how other people behave, or what they say. But you can control how you react to it. When it comes to post-COVID reopening, you can’t control whether or not people around you get vaccinated or wear a mask. But if it makes you feel safer to do so, you should. Don’t worry about what the newest rules or mandates are. Just do what makes you feel most comfortable.
Acknowledge your anxiety.
Recognizing the things that make you most anxious allows you to figure out ways to combat them. If you’re nervous about big crowds, avoid areas that tend to have them. If shopping centers make you nervous, shop online or go to smaller, less crowded boutiques. If vacations, airports, or flying are out of the question for the time being, take road trips in your home state and explore areas you never knew existed. Instead of eating at a busy restaurant, go to a small one that perhaps has an outdoor dining area. If you’re not yet comfortable going to a big party, meet up with one or two friends at a time.
Slowly challenge yourself.
Every few weeks or months, put yourself in situations that used to feel uncomfortable to assess your level of anxiety right now. Rank how anxious these situations make you feel. You may find that your worries wane over time.
Set boundaries with friends, family, and coworkers.
Tell others what your level of comfort is with certain activities. Ask if they are willing to wear a mask around you. If not, you may want to skip seeing them, or ask that they maintain a safe distance from you. Some people may think you’re being overly cautious or just plain ridiculous, but remember, this is your life! You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
Try anxiety-relieving supplements.
Several supplements and herbs have calming properties that can help take the “edge” off your anxiety.
You can find all of these individually at most drug stores, or you buy a product specially formulated to naturally treat anxiety. One excellent product that contains several of these and other calming ingredients is Tranquilene.
Remember, anxiety is normal for many people. But it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life in this post-COVID era. Take things slow, move at your own pace, and surround yourself with people who support you.
Akhondzadeh S, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001 Oct;26(5):363-7.