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Sharp Health News

3 tips for managing reentry anxiety

April 20, 2021

Woman at home during pandemic
With San Diego County’s recent entrance to the less-restrictive orange tier, many people are excited to begin returning to a sense of normalcy. However, after a year of increased stress and anxiety, it’s not unusual to feel some apprehension about when and how to venture out again.

Even as guidelines change and people continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it can be hard to let go of the anxiety some people have become used to feeling.

“We’ve been under chronic stress for well over a year,” says Veronica Campbell, a marriage and family therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “Honestly, it makes sense we feel anxious because things were really scary and hard. Instead of downplaying our emotions, it’s important to acknowledge them, give ourselves compassion, put things into perspective and, finally, move at your own pace as we venture out again.”

Campbell shares these 3 tips for processing anxiety about returning to social situations.

1. Prepare for difficult conversations
While there is a light at the end of tunnel, public health officials caution that everyone should continue to follow state travel guidelines and practice all other COVID-related safety measures. As more businesses — including gyms, restaurants and theme parks — start to reopen, some people may have different comfort levels than their friends or family.

“My advice is to have open and honest dialogue. Many of us might have different ideas of what’s safe and not safe, so let’s talk about it. We may be able to find some common ground,” says Campbell. And while some people are excited to get back to their old routines, it’s OK for others to be more cautious about returning to certain activities.

“If you aren’t ready to do something, it’s OK to set boundaries and share that you aren’t comfortable yet.”

2. Ease back into it
For some people, getting used to doing things again may take some time.

“Dip your toe in the water and don’t jump into the deep end,” says Campbell. “When something seems overwhelming, we can take gradual steps a little at a time.”

Start by participating in outdoor activities with others to ease back into social life. As people expand their comfort zone, they should make sure to continue to take the proper precautions and follow local guidelines.

3. Know when to reach out
People should talk to their friends and family about how they are feeling — as they may be feeling similar apprehension and anxiety. But if anxiety persists, some may consider talking to a professional.

“If you’re noticing that your anxiety is becoming debilitating, this is a sign that you may need a little bit of help,” says Campbell. “Mental health professionals are a great resource for helping walk us through severe anxiety.”

For mental health questions or concerns, call your primary care doctor. You can also reach out to a mental health provider directly with most insurance plans; the contact information is usually located on your health insurance card.

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