After more than a year of quarantine, virus infections, and deaths, vaccines are finally at hand. COVID-19 vaccinations are currently rolling out across the globe. Since then, restrictions on quarantines have been gradually lifted. Some countries have completely returned to normal, allowing concerts and other mass gatherings. While most of the population is rejoicing about being free to travel and socialize again, many have anxiety about the thought of things going back to normal.
Anxiety About Post Pandemic Return to Normal
When quarantine restrictions were implemented a year ago, everyone had to adapt to the so-called “new normal.” This entailed people having to wear masks all the time, working from home, enrolling in online classes, having a lower capacity for public transportation and restaurants, and many other changes. It was an abrupt transition, but everyone seemed to adjust gradually.
However, it was not easy, especially for the mental health of people. Several studies have shown elevated rates of stress, anxiety, and depression amongst the population. Levels in feelings of loneliness, suicidal behavior, and addiction have also risen. This is because of the sudden change in people’s normal activities and routines brought about by the drastic need to avoid going outside.
Now that most people are accustomed to the new routines created in isolation and virtual activities, returning to life before the pandemic again can feel daunting to everyone. Some people who already have social anxiety will most likely worsen, and it will be difficult for them to readapt to the change again. The thought of going back to normal where social gatherings, on-site work, and face-to-face classes are allowed might trigger one’s social anxiety. People might have forgotten how to talk and socialize with others in person. They might also be anxious about the shift in people’s behavior.
Trauma caused by the global pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of lives. However, its impact on individuals is not the same. Some think of the pandemic as a way of reconnecting with their families and loved ones. While for some, the pandemic is a source of abuse, violence, and trauma.
A China-based study presented that almost 13% of the participants aged 14 to 35 showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder a month into the pandemic.
In New York, David Dudovitz, who was recently featured in an article by MSNBC, shared his experience as he went to get vaccinated. Before the pandemic broke out, Dudovits said he had the flu. The flu was so awful that he had to go to the hospital. Dudovitz experienced something traumatic in the hospital that made him more fearful of the virus. So he stayed inside as much as possible until the vaccine came. When he was at the vaccine center, people thought he was eccentric as he put layers and layers of protection. Despite getting vaccinated, he still feels uncomfortable, fearing that vaccinated people will carry on with a fake sense of security that will cause another outbreak.
This manifests the rumination of individuals about their experiences in the pandemic. During the lockdowns, going to public spaces that people used to enjoy was unsafe. With the rising number of people getting vaccinated, going back to these places can be safe once again. However, people that show symptoms of PTSD may feel otherwise. Thinking about going out again might only worsen their anxiety and fear.
How to overcome anxiety
Instead of avoiding the things that trigger anxiety, facing them at a slow pace will be more helpful. Doing the opposite may only prolong your anxiety. By gradually facing the thoughts and situations in small but consistent ways, you will see the improvement over time.
You do not have to do it all at once. You can try the following:
- Jog or walk outside every day. Through this, you will once again be used to being outside and seeing people.
- Try going to public establishments. Go out to get groceries, buy at the pharmacy, and do errands. You will gradually feel comfortable with repetitive trips.
- If you are working and got used to the work-from-home setup, try passing by your office a few times so you can feel comfortable about being in that area again. If you are a student, do the same with your school campus.
- Write a journal about the things you feel each day. You can also plan the social events that you want to participate in and gauge how many you can tolerate without feeling overwhelmed.
- Socialize in ways that do not require you to go out. There are numerous online communication platforms where you can call your friends, family, and loved ones.
- Remember that progress is not linear. Some days, you will feel okay. Some days you will feel worse—like you are not making any progress at all. Breathe. It is normal to feel that way. You can start again by doing the things you did from the beginning.
Blue Sky Counseling Omaha
I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues. Such mental health issues include behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to discuss mental health services in Omaha today.