The “new normal” of Covid-19 was uniquely abnormal to our regular lives, and as we begin to slowly shift back to what we used to know, it is common to feel both excitement and apprehension. For those living with anxiety disorders, it may be difficult to find some ease when everything still feels so uncertain. Here are some ways to manage moving forward.
It has been a rough year and a half, and we have trained ourselves to be ultra-cautious about how we interact with the world around us. With our masks on and our hand gel at the ready, we’ve made critical decisions about the places we go, how long we spend indoors, how many people we are willing to come into contact with, and under what conditions we are willing to venture out. And at the end of all of that, we come home, unmask, and collapse in the relative safety of our own place.
Essentially, we have successfully conditioned ourselves to be keenly aware of risks to our health and the health of others, and developed a set of behaviours to reflect this awareness. Part of the anxiety about returning to our old ways is the natural tension the brain feels when it needs to unlearn something – basically, we are beginning the process of breaking a habit. This can feel even more uncomfortable because these aren’t “bad” habits, they are the ones we established to keep ourselves and others safe.
Acknowledging this is important, because it helps explain why we feel the way we do, and provides an answer for our troubled mind – we are beginning to change our habits because the situation is also beginning to change, and this is a good thing.
However, it can still take some time to come to terms with this, particularly if you’re living with an anxiety disorder. This underscores the need for a solid set of coping tools to manage stress and stay focused in the days ahead. Here are a few suggestions for beginning to shift your thinking regarding the pandemic, opening yourself up to the opportunities that present themselves while being mindful of lingering uncertainties.
Tip 1: Acknowledge the Uncertainty, and the Progress
The continuing uncertainty of the current moment has played a significant role in fuelling anxiety about how to function in this stage of the pandemic, where new variants and recurring waves of infections remain key issues. However, there have been some moves forward as well, as vaccines slowly become available and people gain more understanding about how to protect themselves and others.
If you are feeling anxious about changing restrictions, it can be helpful to list out exactly what is concerning you, as well as things you know that are changing for the positive. For example, more public spaces are attempting to help mitigate health risks by limiting the number of people gathering, offering more service options outside, and stepping up cleaning practices. In some areas, vaccinations are readily available and being utilised by the public. Make sure that you take these things into account when you are weighing out the risks, and you’ll be able to craft a more balanced approach to how you interact.
Tip 2: Set Some Limits
Restrictions are relaxing, and everyone is calling you to go out. You’ve gotten an invitation from a friend to eat inside a restaurant, your cousin wants to go to a concert, everyone at the grocery store is unmasked, and all you can seem to think about is: “Am I really ready to deal with all this?”
Before you get completely overwhelmed, set some limits on both ends of the spectrum. This means encourage yourself to try something new, but also respect your need to take some time to adjust. Think gradual – if eating inside a restaurant seems like way too much, suggest a picnic in the park instead, or finding a place with an outside patio. You might want to decide that you’ll work on one new activity or practice a week to put some more concrete boundaries on how you will start returning to some of your old habits.
Remember that setting limits also applies to things like news and internet consumption. If you spend time at home pouring over worst-case scenarios and latest tragedies, this is going to negatively skew your mental narrative about what’s going on. Stay informed, but avoid being overwhelmed by limiting your screen time.
Tip 3: Get Out on Your Own Terms
Speaking of cultivating a healthy outlook, getting out of the house and being active can have a profound impact on the amount of stress you feel and your overall mood. You don’t necessarily have to push your comfort level here – this can be as simple as getting out and taking a walk. If you have access to natural spaces, these can also be good for fresh air and a fresh perspective.
Yoga and meditation remain powerful tools in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. You can do these anywhere – at home, outside, or if you feel up to it, in a class. The point is making time to clear your mind, take a break from your fears, and build a healthy mind-body connection that will equip you to deal with whatever comes next.
Tip 4: Make a Plan
You’re going to meet some friends for lunch, and you have realised you are not quite sure about how the outing will play out. Five minutes later, you’re questioning whether you should even go. Before you call and cancel, think through the following points and make a plan for yourself:
- How will you greet your friends? With a wave? A hug?
- Will you wear masks?
- Will you ask for a seat outside, or take an inside booth?
- What are you comfortable to talk about? Is there any topic you’d prefer to set a boundary on?
- How much time are you willing to spend out?
Giving yourself a solid plan by which to guide your interactions and think through how to talk about what you need can help assuage anxiety and make you feel safer outside your comfort zone.
Tip 5: Remember You are Not Alone
Chances are you are far from the only person in your family or social circles experiencing anxiety about how to get back to old activities. While your anxiety disorder certainly can make your worries more acute, there are people who will understand where you are coming from and share some of the same fears. Talking this out with people who are similarly hesitant can help alleviate some of these worries.
If your anxiety is preventing you from re-engaging with the world, consider reaching out to a mental health specialist. A professional can work with you to identify the sources of your anxiety and develop personalised tools to manage it and move forward. Their experience helping people manage anxiety disorders will help you get more than just generalised reassurance, and provide the additional support you need to make positive changes.
Managing Anxiety and Moving Forward at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand offers a peaceful oasis for healing, growth, and the rediscovery of yourself at our inpatient mental health treatment facility. Our compassionate, internationally-trained team of specialists work with each individual client to develop a personalised treatment plan that is attuned to your unique needs and goals. We have extensive experience working with a variety of mental health conditions including:
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorders
- Emotional Trauma
- Co-occurring Disorders
Give us a call today and learn more about how we can support you through this challenging period.