Feeling anxious after quarantine?
2020 was the year we least expected it to be. In January, we started the year with "2020 vision" and new goals for the year, but as we know, it did not go as planned. Nearly a year and a half later we are slowly recovering and trying to establish that sense of normalcy again.
We all coped through 2020 in different ways, ways in which worked best for us. Some people took to projects and others really struggled with anxiety this past year. However it is that you worked through the chaos, know that there's no right answer. Meet yourself where you are at and go from there.
Personally, I would have loved to do all sorts of projects, but I was just getting by in having a healthy pregnancy and adjusting to work being remote (as many of you were as well). However, we got by, we did what we needed for ourselves to feel safe and for our families to feel safe.
Nearly a year and a half later, we are slowly coming out of this nightmare. At least in California, the mask mandate plans to be lifted this month. Schools have been hybrid. Churches are open. Indoor dining is open. Movie theaters are open. The state is slowly, but surely, opening up.
As we open up...
Many of us will have mixed feelings. Many of us will feel ready and many of us will not feel ready. Listen to where YOU are at, and do not feel rushed by those around you.
As I've heard more and more discussions on the state reopening, I've seen a spectrum of responses from feeling anxious to be open and around others again, to maybe already being out there and ready. If you're ready for things to reopen, great! It has been a tough year, to say the least. If you are not ready, that's definitely OKAY! It is completely normal to have anxiety around reopening, to feel anxiety around going back to in-person (work, school, mass, etc), to feel anxiety seeing loved ones again, to feel anxiety not having a mask mandate. However you experience anxiety after quarantine, it is okay.
Just as we have had to adjust to being home, adjust to working remotely or distanced learning, adjust to the world shutting down, adjust to mass online... we too should expect an adjustment to reopening and returning to a sense of normalcy.
What can I do to work through my anxiety?
Meet yourself where you are at.
Start by meeting yourself where you are at. Ask yourself:
"How am I feeling?"
"Do I feel any anxiety?"
"Am I ready to be around others?"
"Am I ready to go back to in-person events?"
"What feels doable for me and what does not feel doable?"
Really listen to yourself and do not feel pressured by others to rush where you are at. Wherever you are at, is totally fine. Start there.
As you reflect on how you're feeling and what you're ready for, remember to invite God to be a part of that reflection and a part of the process. Through prayer, we can offer up any anxieties we carry, and we do not have to carry them alone.
After checking in with yourself and identifying what you're comfortable with, or not comfortable with, start with small exposures. For example, if you have not eaten out at all (not even ordered in) this past year, start with take out. Order from a restaurant and eat it at home. If you have ordered take out, then you can start with dining outside. And if you're already comfortable with dining outside, you can try dining inside. Choose a day/time that feels comfortable and choose a place that you feel comfortable at. Remember, you can leave at any time if you do not feel comfortable.
As you gradually expose yourself to situations that may feel uncomfortable, pay attention to how you feel and to what you need. You don't have to stay where you are at for longer than what feels comfortable. But if you are able to sit and work through it, that's good as well.
Have a plan.
It's good to have a plan prior to engaging in something that might create anxiety. For example, if it is your first time going to a restaurant again, maybe look at the menu before going, consider how long you might stay, think about where you feel best seated, call ahead to determine how busy the restaurant might be and have a plan for how long you might stay.
Pay attention to how you're feeling, and if needed, engage in some coping or grounding skills to work through the moment.
Work with a therapist.
At any point, it is always helpful to work with a therapist! Whether you feel the anxiety is manageable or not. However, I highly recommend it if you're finding it difficult to work through the anxiety and if it is getting in the way of your day to day life. Anxiety can feel heavy and scary at times, so it is always best to work with a professional who can walk with you as you work through it.
As we reopen, again, let us remember we will all be in different spaces. Some of us super ready and some of us not so ready. Either space is okay. Just as we supported each other during the pandemic, let us also support each other as we slowly reopen.
"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”