One of the most common emotions we experience as we emerge from the pandemic is anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen comments that anxiety is particularly triggered by the high levels of uncertainty we face- uncertainty about vaccines, society reopening, new normal workplace, and the COVID-19 virus and variants.
I also believe that a high level of anxiety comes with the unfinished business that we had pre-pandemic. What goals, decisions, or projects were put on hold? What conversations and relationship growth were avoided, stunted, hindered, or forgotten due to relational distancing? Perhaps old depression or anxiety symptoms are re-surfacing with thoughts of returning to pre-pandemic living. To be certain, the pandemic and its effects had a depressing and anxiety provoking effect on some level for everyone. How can we best thrive in this new phase?
I will share information on the following four areas that are related to anxiety and worrying: 1) (re)setting goals; 2) combatting fatigue; 3) coping with worry about the virus as we re-enter; 4) how to manage relapses or worries about relapses into depression and anxiety. Let’s go!
If you are feeling lost as we are slowly re-entering pre-pandemic life, you are not alone. It can be difficult to make decisions and set personal goals. One valuable first step is to identify your “why” or the expectation that you have for accomplishing your identified goal(s). Is change difficult for you? If a fear of taking risks keeps you from moving forward, evaluate the likelihood of these feared outcomes. Do you need more information to make a decision? What safeguards or resources need to be in place for you to feel more secure? Perhaps you have too many goals that you are working on at the same time; or your goal may be overwhelming and unruly. How can you break your goal down into smaller steps or projects? How can you organize and prioritize your multiple goals so that you do not fall into procrastination and avoidance? Whatever your goals may be, know your limits and identify realistic ways to achieve them.
Fatigue can result from chronic exposure to stress and change- something we all have experienced. In addition to the general challenges of life during the pandemic, specific stressors such as loss of loved ones, catching COVID-19 (or actual risks of exposure), and a loss of job/income may also contribute to fatigue. Bumping up time spent in self-care activities and things you enjoy can help to alleviate tension and fatigue. Examples include socializing, physical activity, spending time in nature, limiting screen time, or doing some fun activity (not work or chore related) that you haven’t done in a while. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and relax, knowing that this will help you to be more effective in your life and relationships. Dr. Kristen Allott created a helpful list and 30 day challenge to help with fatigue and brain fog. These helpful worksheets can be used to combat COVID-19 fatigue. For these resources, click here.
For over a year there has been so much conflicting information about how to not catch or spread COVID-19. It seems we are now in a different stage of dealing with this virus (i.e. learning how to live with the virus) with continued uncertainty about what will happen next. How can we find an appropriate balance between personal/public health and personal freedoms to live? At the moment it seems like there’s quite a few people in public who are masking, or prefer to mask, even when outdoors. I think it’s fair and appropriate to know what the boundaries are for you and your family/bubble and to communicate this with others as needed. The rules for courtesy and respect for others’ needs still apply as they did prior to vaccination distribution. Continue limiting excessive news consumption related to the virus as this can result in heightened anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and feeling on edge. When you are anxious or upset about masking behaviors (or lack of), determine if there’s some action to take or change to make within yourself. If you are just being upset, breathe- and let it go.
astly, if you are worried about a relapse/possible relapse into depression or anxiety symptoms, go back to the fundamentals. What behaviors and strategies helped you to get out of depression or anxiety before? While I believe that many of you know what to do to heal yourself, I also know it can be challenging to change. If this is you, please don’t avoid the situation, but be proactive and reach out for professional help. It’s always so much easier to prevent problems or intervene early on rather than waiting.
<3 Be well and take care !