How to Cope with ‘Re-Entry Anxiety’, According to a Psychologist
Life beginning to return to "normal" is exciting, and being able to see our loved ones again is wonderful. But the post-lockdown life also bares a lot of uncertainty, and many of us have adjusted to a more isolated way of living.
Perhaps you feel nervous to socialise as often as you used to or be in contact with more than a handful of people. Perhaps you're feeling hyperaware of how others view you and worried that you're being looked at negatively. If you are feeling this way, which is completely normal, chances are you're experiencing 're-entry anxiety.'
In her own words, Registered Psychologist and Clinical Psychotherapist, Noosha Anzab explains below what re-entry anxiety is, how to know if you're dealing with it, and the coping techniques she recommends we implement to better adjust to life post lockdown.
How to Cope with 'Re-Entry Anxiety', According to a Psychologist
What is 're-entry anxiety'?
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic most of us have experienced symptoms of anxiety. Fast forward to 2021, and an integration into this “new-normal”, symptoms of anxiety have spiked and rightly so. The world over has donned it 're-entry anxiety' and it is just that; Anxieties, fears and worries about re-entering society and the gradual letting go of safeguards which have thus far helped protect us.
How do you know if you're dealing with re-entry anxiety?
No matter what sort of anxiety we are dealing with, it’s crucial to know that anxiety often causes a physical response. When facing re-entry into our outer worlds post lockdown - an increased heart rate, chest pain, palpitations, stomach-aches, nausea, diarrhea, and shallow breathing can be physical signs of re-entry anxiety.
Fusing with negative thoughts or worries, getting caught in a loop of thoughts that really spread like wildfire and feeling as though thoughts are intrusive can also be signs, we are dealing with re-entry anxiety.
Feeling nervous, having difficulty concentrating, and needing to withdraw are also signs of re-entry anxiety. If we notice ourselves having catastrophizing thoughts, excessive fear, or obsessive thinking about socially having to re-integrate then it might be worthwhile to consider talking to a professional. It’s really important here that we realise that re-entry anxiety doesn’t just look like fear of contamination, worries about exposure to Covid-19, or stress about adhering to the mandatory guidelines set out by the public health order.
Re-entry anxiety could be worry about how people will judge us when seeing us for the first time in a while, excessive worry about excessive weight gain or weight loss, feeling panicked about having to fit in so many events or catch ups, and having to reinstate routines, work, and competing priorities.
Expert tips to help relieve re-entry anxiety
1. Seek professional help
As a big advocate of therapy, I recommend speaking to a professional as soon as you can. Being anxious can be debilitating, it can impact us in so many different aspects of our worlds (both inner and outer) and can grow to feel unmanageable.
If you are experiencing signs of re-entry anxiety and feeling it’s effects, even seeing your General Practitioner is a great port of call. Your GP can recommend a psychologist or psychotherapist that may be able to help, offer their expertise and help guide you in getting the right help.
2. Reach out
Reaching out to family and friends is always a great thing but sometimes our nearest and dearest get it wrong in the advice-giving department, sometimes they may invalidate us and sometimes they themselves may not have the capacity to truly help us. A Psychologist or Psychotherapist can definitely help in being able to educate, make recommendations, help gain insight and unpack the fears or core beliefs driving the re-entry anxiety.
3. Hit the gym
Exercise is also a really great way to help the body cope with the effects of re-entry anxiety. Exercise doesn’t only make us feel good because of the endorphins it releases; it helps burn our bodies stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
4. Focus on your breath
Another really simple and very effective way of helping re-entry anxiety is breathwork. Now, even though deep and mindfulness breathing feels unnatural and difficult to master, it’s really important to give it a chance. When we don’t breath properly, the lowest parts of our lungs don’t get a full load of oxygenated air, which means we can actually feel short of breath and anxious. Breathing deep through the nose, filling the lungs and raising the lower belly as you do so, can encourage a full oxygen exchange which can slow the heartbeat and help us calm and concentrate.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000. If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.