Mental Health

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Expert Advice On How To Handle Re-Entry Anxiety

Will the new normal ever start feeling ... normal?

Throughout the pandemic, we wished for a return to normalcy. But now, updated mask mandates & new social distancing recommendations raise concerns about how to move forward. Romper asked mental health experts & medical providers our questions in this transitional period.

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For so long, we went into survival mode; it will take time for our bodies & minds to adjust. Practice self-care. Be kind to yourself. Remember that it took so long for us to adjust to being shut down, so it’s only natural that it will take time for us to adjust to the re-opening.

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If you were miserable taking your kids to a different extracurricular activity every night & only eating in the car, change that. Just because you can join 100 activities doesn't mean you have to. Design a schedule that prioritizes togetherness & calm over non-stop activities.

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That way, when awkward confrontations arise, you aren’t taken by surprise. You can respond with current data, but personal reasons are much more likely to connect with others because we tend to tune out all the statistics after a while. Approach all interactions with kindness.

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“I wear a mask because it shows strangers that I care about them.”

Kids can say and understand this. We’re all doing the best we can; the simple act of continuing to wear a mask in mixed company and close quarters really isn’t about you, it’s about caring for your community.

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Our pre-pandemic lives don't exist. The world that we will be returning to is a post-pandemic world and it likely is going to feel pretty weird at first. The good news is that it's new to all of us, so you will be in good company as we negotiate our new normal!

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Maybe stop in at a coffee shop. If that feels OK, then maybe next week you take the time to sit inside the coffee shop. You may find that afterwards you need more time to recharge & that’s OK. Everyone will experience this transition differently.

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You’ve seen what flexibility has done for you: don’t stop prioritizing yourself & your needs! Are there certain things that you will have to say no to in order to maintain this priority? (Yes.) Will you have to set boundaries to protect this priority?

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Ask yourself: what are 5 things I see; 4 things I hear; 3 things I feel; 2 things I smell; 1 thing I taste? In taking the time to notice these things, we begin the process of learning how to be in the moment. This can reduce symptoms of anxiety & help us to feel grounded.

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In March 2020 we went into quarantine for "2 weeks." In that time we have seen unimaginable loss — of life, jobs, money, human connection, & our previous way of life. This response of not getting your hopes up seems to be rooted in protecting yourself from being disappointed.

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I’m hearing more people identify with shame and loneliness. The answer is through vulnerability, which Brené Brown describes as the birthplace of joy, belonging, and love. Be vulnerable by reflecting on and doing what is best for you, your family, and your situation.

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There are many people who are continuing to struggle with their mental health as a result of the pandemic. If you feel unmotivated, unusually sad, anxious, or unable to find joy in the things that you used to, reach out for help. There are resources out there that can help.

Experts cited:

Shannon Sabella, LMSW & certified school social worker

Rachel Ochse, Psy.D.,& psychotherapist

Kateland Kelly, PA-C

Michelle C. Harkins, MS, LCMHC, MLADC