COVID19: Coping with re-entry anxiety

After a long, hard winter in lockdown in Ireland, there’s now a lot of hope that we can start to get back to socialising and enjoying some of our most-missed activities as restrictions ease.

But for many people this easing of restrictions may present a new source of anxiety and stress – however desperate they are to see friends and family again, visit the hairdresser, enjoy a drink in the pub or see their colleagues in the office rather than on a screen.

It’s only natural that for some, going back to old routines will feel unusual and may even make us fearful, anxious, angry or nervous.  This is a form of “re-entry anxiety” which is a specific form of stress related to the fear of being unable to adapt to previously established routines.

Heading out in to the post-lockdown world again will bring a rush of sights, sounds and smells that are very different to the isolation of your own home – after you’ve been inside for a long time, it can feel very strange to go outside.  For some people this may lead to sensory overload and a feeling of being overwhelmed by these senses.

If you’re experiencing “re-entry anxiety” then remember to take each day at your own pace – but also try to challenge yourself to try something different every couple of days.

We might have to push ourselves to reconnect with people and overcome initial awkwardness.  So if you’re feeling nervous in a social situation, attend closely to what your conversation partner is saying, rather than thinking about what to say next.

You perhaps lose your confidence to do things you haven’t had to in a while.  These things might have been difficult in the first place and having to return to them after having quite a sustained break might actually be very challenging,”

The good news is people are resilient.  Experts expect that most of the people who are anxious right now will recover in the weeks, perhaps months, after lockdown restrictions have been lifted.  We are being urged to keep doing some of the things that are good for our mental health, like eating well and doing regular exercise.

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