According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of adults feel uneasy about an increase in social interactions brought on by what’s being called “re-entry anxiety.” Increased social obligations, return to office plans and the ability to travel can all bring on anxiety and overstimulation after more than a year of little to no interaction with strangers, friends and even family. While some fears – like contracting COVID-19 – are valid, it’s important to distinguish these fears from irrational anxieties and act accordingly. While fears can be combatted with safety precautions, anxieties can be remedied with mindfulness, effective communication and when needed – mental health treatment.
1. Communicate your comfort level.
Everyone has had different experiences throughout the pandemic depending on the nature of their work, the size of their ‘quarantine bubble,’ and several other factors. This means re-entry will feel different for everyone too, bringing on different fears, stressors, and levels of anxiety. To help ease feelings of anxiety, clearly communicate your feelings with those in your life – whether it’s asking your employer for a more secluded work area to feel safer or letting your friends know you’d like to start out with one-on-one social interactions to combat any social anxiety.
2. Take changes slowly.
As with most things, making changes slowly leads to the best results. Instead of heading out to a party for your first social event, consider spending time with close friends at home, then spending time together at restaurants or other public spaces before moving on to larger social gatherings. Or, instead of jetting off to a far-away country for your summer vacation, opt for a staycation or road trip destination.
3. Practice mindfulness.
Staying in the present moment and focusing on your present feeling of safety and joy is a powerful tool to manage anxiety. Adding in other mindfulness-related self-care practices such as meditation and gratitude can also be helpful in cultivating a feeling of calm during this transitional time.
4. Find support with mental health resources.
When needed, it’s critical to connect with experienced professionals to address anxiety or other mental illness when it begins to negatively impact your daily life. Talk to your doctor to determine if you could benefit from working with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The pandemic has made mental health resources more accessible than ever with many doctors now accepting virtual telehealth appointments.
Dr. Mara Windsor is an emergency physician, philanthropist and advocate for wellness. As former Clinical Site Director and Education Director who now serves as Chief Wellness Officer for her physician group at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Hospitals she serves as a leader in the medical industry. She also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and Clinical Assistant Professor at Midwestern University AZCOM. Seven years ago, she founded L.I.F.E. (Living in Fulfilled Enlightenment), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the physical, emotional and spiritual wellness of professionals. For more information on the organization, visit www.livingenlightenment.life or follow on Facebook.