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  • Jolene Roehlkepartain

5 Tips to Calm Your Re-Entry Anxiety

As people get vaccinated and our society opens up, we’re now bumping into a new phenomenon: re-entry anxiety. According to an American Psychological Association study, about half of Americans are anxious about in-person interactions once the pandemic loosens.

Add other stressors from the past year (social unrest, divisive politics, the U.S. Capitol riot, shootings, and natural disasters), and it makes it even harder to want to step back into the world.

How can you calm your re-entry anxiety?

  1. Be present in the moment. The practice of mindfulness can help enhance your well-being by helping you to become aware of what’s happening in the moment while practicing being compassionate towards yourself.

  2. Step back into life a little at a time. Know what your longer-term goals are and then break them into smaller ones. If you haven’t been to a certain store, plan on going for 10 minutes. If it’s too busy, turn around and return when it’s less busy. Build your tolerance gradually.

  3. Schedule a time to worry. Since anxiety can become an all-day habit, schedule a 15-minute time to worry once a day (and long before bed). Journal about your worries. Record them in an audio file. Make a list. Then put them away until the next 15-minute session the following day.

  4. Keep adjusting. Part of the challenge with this pandemic is that we continue to learn new things about the virus and vaccines. Make decisions the best you can on what you know now and be open to making changes as new developments come along.

  5. Discover healthy, safe activities that you can lose yourself in. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified optimal experiences as flow experiences. These are ones that you lose track of time as you do them, such as making art, having a stimulating conversation, or playing a sport or game. These activities help to lower anxiety and boost your satisfaction.

As you re-enter activities, be kind and compassionate toward yourself as you do so. “It’s okay to feel anxious and uncomfortable,” Jonathan Abramowitz, director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told the Washington Post. “We’re human, and we haven’t faced many of these situations in a year.”

As you step out, step slowly. Build your risk tolerance a little at a time.

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