When COVID-19 lockdowns were first instituted, it felt, for so many people, unthinkable to have to stay home nearly 24/7.
Except for food and essentials , I also shopped for my mother in law. At first I just went about my business no mask but then when cases added up day to day I started wearing a mask.
I find myself more anxious with a mask on, harder to get good breaths which also is not good for us.
But right now we are suppose to wear them oof in stores , etc
I don’t understand why people wear mask and gloves in the car when they are alone but that’s a topic for a different day.
On occasion people like me going out also felt equally strange and nerve-wracking. I’m not only shopping for us but others as well.
But I did get more comfortable after a few weeks.
Now here we are coming the Re-entry phase everything is open people are everywhere some with masks some without.
The people I talk to have several fears , but to me I am hearing about two distinct types of re-entry anxiety.
Some people are anxious because they have a “lurking fear” of catching or spreading covid19 while others have stopped socializing and are finding it difficult to resume.
A little bit of anxiety can motivate you to follow public-health guidance like social distancing and wearing a mask where it’s required .
But when anxiety starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, it may be a problem. If you’re struggling to find the right balance, try these expert-backed tips for combating re-entry anxiety.
Take baby steps
“Exposure therapy“—or safely confronting sources of fear—is the gold-standard treatment for many fear and anxiety disorders. The same tactic may help with re-entry anxiety, says Dr. Ryan Sultan, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center in New York City.
“Don’t go from staying locked in your apartment to taking the subway,” Sultan says. Instead, set progressive small goals that will get you closer to behavior you find scary. For example, you could start with a walk in the park alone, then try chatting with a friend from your window and finally go for a walk together.
If you do feel yourself getting pulled into an anxiety spiral, focus on your breathing. “The simplest way to pull yourself back from that anxiety is to really concentrate on taking controlled, slow, deep breaths,” Sultan says.
“Social isolation absolutely has short term mental-health impacts,” Sultan says. “But it potentially also has long-term impacts, and they’re directly proportional to the duration. The longer people avoid things that are making them anxious, the harder they will be to overcome.”
That does not mean you should rush out and socialize just like you did before coronavirus. (Large social gatherings are still not condoned by health experts, and most recommend meeting up outdoors.) But think about what you can do safely right now—perhaps sitting with a friend in your backyard while wearing masks and staying six feet apart—and take steps to do it sooner rather than later.
But think long-term
Sultan says he’s seen multiple patients who are remaining more isolated than necessary because of re-entry anxiety. He asks them a simple question: “Is this the life that you want to live indefinitely?”
Almost invariably, he says, people realize they “miss being outside, seeing their friends, living their life.” Having that moment of realization can motivate people to start taking small steps back toward normal, Sultan says.
Be wary of crutches
Brown says it’s easy for recommended public-health practices, like washing your hands regularly, to spiral into “safety behaviors” that, consciously or subconsciously, you rely on to keep anxiety at bay. Be honest about how these safety behaviors are affecting you. If wiping down your groceries “takes you five minutes and it really helps you,” it’s probably not a big deal, even if it’s not strictly recommended, Brown says. But if you’re spending hours a day cleaning your home, that could be a bigger issue. “It’s never really up to me to decide, ‘Is this behavior a problem?’” Brown says. Ask yourself, “Is it getting in the way of the life you want to be living?”
Recruit a Buddy
Like most behavior changes, quelling re-entry anxiety is easier with a buddy who can both support you and hold you accountable, Brown says.
Similarly, if someone in your life is struggling with re-entry anxiety, try to be their partner through it, Sultan says. “Ask them, ‘What would make you feel more comfortable doing this? Is there something I can do that would help you with that? What’s something you would feel comfortable with us doing?’”
If you find yourself still struggling and don’t know what to do you can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline 24/7 at 1-800-662-4357.
They can refer you to a professional to speak with.