Re-entry Anxiety: Life After COVID-19

June 6, 2021

Put simply, re-entry anxiety is feeling stressed or hesitant about getting back to a normal life after living with the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although we are closer to “normalcy” than we’ve been in the past 16 months, you are not alone if you are feeling anxious rather than excitement. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 49% of Americans feel anxious about returning to in-person interactions post-COVID-19.  Of course, research like this is ongoing, but there is a clear trend of anxiety as we re-emerge.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you cope as our world changes—again.

  • Reduce Avoidance

One of the best antidotes to re-entry is to reduce avoidance — to engage in the very activities making us anxious.  Everyone is re-acclimating to a somewhat normal life differently. Some may feel general anxiety about the idea of returning to an office instead of working from the comfort of home, waking up earlier for a long morning commute, or the anxiety of feeling obligated to attend family gatherings or social events again.  Even meeting a friend for a cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe may seem daunting. Be gentle with yourself–try not to over commit to everyone and everything all at once.

  •  Accept Your Feelings

It’s not uncommon to have a wide range of emotions which can be experienced at the same time.  Perhaps you have new goals or a new perspective on life while still feeling sad by losses associated with COVID-19.  It’s totally normal to feel excitement and happiness as well as fear, despair, guilt and stress.  Have compassion for yourself and engage in healthy routines, including mindfulness.

  •  Acknowledge Social Awkwardness

After a year of social distancing and zoom calls, many feel awkward seeing friends, family and colleagues in person for the first time.  It’s not uncommon to experience a sense of vulnerability and high level of uncertainty now that you are no longer “hiding” behind a computer screen. Start with small talk to get conversations moving and then gradually transition into more meaningful dialogue.  

  • Embrace Life Changes

Accept that your life may have changed quite a bit during the pandemic. Your job, your body, and your relationships may be seriously different now than when the pandemic started.  These changes may be contributing to your overall anxiety level.  Accepting your new reality may be key.  Likewise, accepting the idea that things may never return to how they used to be is crucial.  When you accept your new reality, it will be easier to take control and plan your next steps intentionally.  

  • Become Future Oriented

Begin to think creatively.  Shift your thinking from what you’re stressed about to positive experiences that could now be waiting for you.  You can be adventurous, but also recognize that ordinary day-to-day events and responsibilities can be meaningful.  Pace yourself and prioritize rest in your schedule as well.  This process will help create a sense of hope and optimism. 

For most people, reentry anxiety will diminish if managed in a healthy way. If, however, your worry is beginning to negatively impact your health, well-being, and relationships, seek professional support. Reach out to 12 Oaks Counseling today.