For some, social distancing and COVID lockdowns have worsened symptoms of social anxiety, generalized anxiety and depression. For others, the past 12 plus months have been a golden opportunity to avoid situations that normally would’ve triggered anxiety. So what happens when life becomes something much closer to normal?
A recent American Psychological Association survey found that 49 percent of adults feel uncomfortable about returning to in-person interaction when the pandemic ends. Without a doubt, getting back to some version of the pre-pandemic norm will be both exhilarating and stressful. Here are four tips to help ease the transition:
1. Take things slowly. Be mindful of feeling too much pressure to do everything and see everyone all at once. Find a pace that feels right for you. Pay close attention to your body and stick to personal boundaries.
2. Commit to non-digital self-care. Most of us significantly increased our screen time during the pandemic. Finding meaningful ways to spend time away from social media is crucial. Activities like painting, drawing, reading, volunteering and exercise create “flow”—what we feel when we’re fully immersed in an enjoyable activity.
3. Cope ahead. Have a plan in place to prepare for post-pandemic life—one that includes strategies to help reduce stress ahead of time. Work on implementing these techniques by envisioning various post-pandemic activities and responsibilities and rehearsing what thoughts and actions you’d implement to cope effectively. Be sure to avoid critical self-talk and practice self-compassion.
4. Know when to seek professional help. For many, the pandemic has worsened pre-existing mental health issues or created new ones. Talking it out with someone qualified can help you gain a fresh perspective and find effective solutions for easing back into your post-pandemic routine.