With COVID restrictions being lifted, the world is changing yet again. As we work towards our new, new “normal” the reactions are mixed. Some may be overjoyed to go out, do things they used to do, and see familiar faces. Others may not care so much. And then there are those who may feel uneasy about leaving the safety of their homes.
Enter: reenrty anxiety
As if there weren’t enough emotions, reentry anxiety is a new emotional state we are forced to face. It’s imperative we work through the feelings so they don’t end up taking control of us.
In this article we will discuss what reentry anxiety is, what it looks like and 13 ways to work through it like a fucking boss so you can come out of your home like RuPaul came out of the closet. Because baby, “you’re a firework.” – Katy Perry.
What is Reentry Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural part of the human condition, with some people feeling more anxious than others.
Healthy anxiety alerts us to sketchy situations and keeps us alert when we need to focus on being safe.
Unhealthy anxiety negatively impacts our daily life. It is when we are anxious even when there is no danger, or when anxiety skews our perception to see perceived danger where there is none.
Reentry anxiety is apprehension or feelings of uneasiness about going back to the places we were forced to exit because of COVID. Understandably, every person may feel some level of reentry anxiety.
What Reentry Anxiety Looks Like
Rumination, reservation, hesitation, aggravation, constipation—anxiety can manifest in different ways. Below are the three major ways I think reentry anxiety will manifest.
Note: I’m no doctor, just someone with high functioning anxiety.
1) Being stuck—Anxiety can have the thought wheel churning at high speed. Even Keanu couldn’t slow down this bus. With so many thoughts, “what-ifs” and made up scenarios you may feel paralyzed and unable to make decisions. This can lead to complete inaction and feeling stuck.
2) Aggression/anger—anxiety can make you feel sad and nervous but those feelings are labeled as “weak”. So instead, you may absentmindedly put preference on anger. To feel anger puts you in a power position instead of sadness, which is perceived as vulnerability.
3) Ruminating thoughts—thoughts that go on and on and won’t quit can happen before you reenter and also after. It can look like going over details of conversations and interactions repeatedly in your mind.
13 Ways to Manage Reentry Anxiety Like a Boss
Now that we know what we are working with, here are some ways to work through reentry anxiety.”
1. Know You Are Not Alone
Everyone experiences the world differently. Anxiety is no different. While someone may not know exactly what you’re going through, there are people out there with reentry anxiety. Remind yourself this is normal and you can and will work through it.
2. Set and Stick to Boundaries
Before going out, establish some ground rules. Only outdoor settings or only indoor if people have masks? Only with people who are vaccinated? Remember, you might have a lower alcohol tolerance!
Related podcast episode: Ep42: Examples of Boundaries
3. Use the Ladder Technique
The ladder technique is essentially taking things one step at a time. Will you stay out only for a few hours and work your way up to longer periods? Are you only going to go out one day a week and work your way up to two?
4. Create Realistic Expectations
In this situation the realistic expectations are low or no expectations at all. I would suggest expecting things to feel uncomfortable and to get better. Focus on yourself and how you’re feeling.
5. Have Self-Compassion
This stuff is tough. Remind yourself that if you say something stupid or if you drank too much or ended up backing out on plans (provided you gave a heads up and didn’t leave anyone hanging) that it’s OK and there is always tomorrow.
Related podcast episode: Self-Compassion & Mental Wellness – 69
6. Consider Sensory Overload
You may not process things as quickly as before and things may seem to go really fast. My first time back in the city I thought it was loud, dirty and people drove like maniacs. I was once one of those maniacs!.. and I will be again!
7. Confide in a Friend
Talking to friends can help us gain perspective and take power away from emotions. Find a compassionate friend who isn’t invalidating. If you can’t think of one, do step eight.
Writing about feelings can take power away from them. Not only with reentry anxiety, it is great for everyday difficulties. Write on a piece of paper or in a book as if you are writing a letter to a friend and telling them about how you feel.
9. Remember that Barely Anyone Knows WTF They Are Doing
We’re all figuring it out. So the person who looks confident and comfortable could actually be anxious. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter. Keep on keeping on!
10. Focus on Reflection
If you’re feeling anxious it’s great to reflect on the feelings and consider how they are impacting you. Is your heart racing, palms sweaty? Take deep breaths and sit with the feelings.
11. Work on Control
Focus on what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how people will act or respond, but you can control how you do!
Related article: You Need to Reevaluate How You Think About Control. Here’s Why.
12. Practice Acceptance
When we accept something for what it is, we can respond instead of react. Acknowledge things might not be the same and some things may actually be better.
Related podcast episode: Ep27: The Importance of Self-Acceptance
13. Have Fun!
Anxiety can make things feel heavy. Remember to have fun and take things with a light-hearted approach. Try to have fun and remember that working through reentry anxiety will help you with anxiety in other areas of your life.