COVID-19: How to Manage Re-entry Anxiety

COVID-19: How to Manage Re-entry Anxiety

COVID-19: How to Manage Re-entry Anxiety

More schools and workplaces have been opening up over the last few months. We have started to see signs of a return to normal after the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s a good thing, but many of us are still more stressed and anxious than usual. You may be anxious about the new wave of cases as the “variant” starts to spread. You may worry about how to act in social settings again — how to deal with coworkers or classmates face-to-face, how to cope with being in large crowds of people.

For some, it’s more pressure on their already-fragile mental health. Many are still worried about their safety or the safety of others. Or they’re coping with losing friends or family.

There is even a name for these feelings: Re-entry anxiety. It includes worries linked with returning to work and school after spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re not anxious, remember others may be feeling afraid and worried. You may be able to help.

Why More Anxiety Now?

For many people, reopening comes with its own set of anxieties, says the American Psychological Association.   According to the group’s Stress in America poll, half of people say they feel on edge about getting back to in-person interaction.

Uncertainty is driving those feelings. People are worried about disease variants. They have questions about getting the vaccine, or if they’ve had it, how long it lasts. Or about the risks children face and when they can get vaccinated.

Many people are also exhausted from dealing with the pandemic, month after month. That lowers their resources for handling anxiety or depression.

What You Can Do

It’s OK to express your concerns. And it’s good to ask others how they’re doing and explore ways to handle the uncertainty together. There are steps you can take to help yourself or a friend, family member or coworker.

Take a Moment to Focus
You can handle stress and anxiety from change better by building resilience and supporting good mental health.

Practicing being in the present moment is one way to handle anxiety, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.   Take a little time each day to practice mindfulness.   And do something you find fulfilling, even if you can only devote a few minutes a day.

It can also help to try to focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t.

Reach Out
Everyone struggles sometimes. If your stress or anxiety is frequent and getting in the way of your daily life, it may be time to get help. Reach out if you feel things are getting worse or if you find yourself coping in unhealthy ways. Examples of that include overeating or using too much alcohol. See your doctor if you feel hopeless or have thoughts of self-harm or not wanting to be alive.


Family Focus
The CDC suggests ways to help children cope:

  • Watch for behavior changes in your child. That might mean more crying, anger or acting out. It could be poor eating or sleeping habits. All can be signs of struggles with stress and anxiety.
  • Talk with your child about school. Prepare them for interactions with classmates and teachers. If they’re anxious about it, reassure them that their feelings are normal.
  • Ask your school how it will help students who may struggle after learning at home.
  • Check how the school identifies students who need mental health support. Find out what services are available, like school counseling or peer support groups.
  • Find ways for your child to be physically active, and make sure they get plenty of sleep and eat healthy foods.

Don’t forget you are your child’s role model. Be sure to handle your stress and anxiety, too. Stick with a routine and make time to eat healthy, sleep, exercise and play. Start small if you need to. And start taking these steps as soon as you can. Taking care of yourself will help you take care of others.

Self-care practices may also add balance, according to the CDC Try taking more breaks. Try meditating, breathing exercises or a relaxing activity like yoga or stretching. And stay in touch with family and friends.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you are struggling, reach out. Call your primary care doctor. They may be able to help or refer you to someone else.

Sources: Why the pandemic’s end spurs anxiety,   American Psychological Association, 2021; Taking Care of Your Emotional Health,   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019; Helping Children Cope,   CDC, 2020; Coping with Stress,   CDC, 2021; 10 Tips to Manage Re-Entry Anxiety Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic,   Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 2020; Get Help,   Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021