Re-entry Anxiety

There is no doubt, that we have all experienced times during the last year where we have questioned the state of our Mental health. I once decided that home-schooling is the way forward with my children, no more school runs. Fast forward a week, we are no longer learning about Pokemon, and the wine is getting opened earlier and earlier.

I once tried to convince my husband that we should sell the house and move to the countryside. We have shown we don't need to go out anymore and could get a bigger garden with impressive views.

The moment that I started to be concerned was following a recent trip to my local shop. I was walking around and noticed that people were looking at me, I am usually blessed with invisibility. It was only when I returned home that my 9-year-old son pointed out that "people will laugh at you if you go out like that".

I looked in the mirror, I was wearing a shirt, jacket, full eye-mark, perfectly presentable. My mirror is waist height, a quick look down. Oh no, I had just walked to the corner shop, waving at my neighbours as I walked past, still wearing my pyjamas bottoms. Not my nice, could be summer trousers, no, the oldest pair I own with reindeers on and covered in lovely strawberry jam stains. Jam stains that I failed to notice my adorable 2 -year- old wiping his face on earlier, thinking that's nice he wants a cuddle.

  • Had I become too comfortable in PJ's?

  • Had I forgotten how to dress?

  • Had I already opened the wine bottle before lunch?

Fortunately for me, this was a blip and made me make the transition from daytime PJs to a nice pair of black leggings. Lockdown certainly created a different level of normal and new way of doing things. The challenge now is feeling confident in ourselves and society as lockdown eases in the UK and we get back to life, similar to the times we experienced pre-covid.

A recent article by Ipsos quotes;

"Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said:

With the success of the vaccine programme and the process of coming out of lockdown, Britons are beginning to feel a lifting of the cloud brought on by the pandemic – and they are hopeful that the final removal of restrictions remains on track for the summer too.

However, the pandemic continues to have an impact on people’s mental wellbeing – particularly women – and there are anxieties about the year ahead, particularly the chances of another wave or a vaccine-resistant variant, so we are not out of the woods yet. Nor is there any easy answer for the economic questions facing the Government. With concerns about the possibility of a recession, there are worries about taxes being raised – but just as many about public spending being cut. Getting this right will be crucial for the country’s post-Covid recovery."

With this in mind, when starting to socialise again, be mindful that some people may be feeling anxious about "re-entering" society. Manage your expectations, communicate with your family and friends. Explain how you feel and ask them about what they feel comfortable with.

If you are feeling anxious take small steps so that you can be and feel in control.

  • Build some structure in your day, go for a walk every morning.

  • Meet up with one person at a time. Choose an open area, and then slowly move to a garden, inside a cafe, inside someone's house.

  • Create an action plan, identify situations that you feel nervous about and likely to avoid. Rank them in order of how nervous you feel about them starting with least nervous at the top. Take one situation at a time, starting from the top, achieve it, cross it off and move onto the next one. Soon you will feel comfortable again and remember all the positive reasons why you enjoyed going out and socialising.

If the fear of socialising and going out is stopping you, take action on understanding whether you could be experiencing a type of social anxiety. Experts are recognising that re-entry anxiety is real, with the 3 most common concerns are;

  1. Fear that social skills have been lost due to lack of practice and feeling awkward being with people in person after adapting to online communication.

  2. Fear of catching and spreading the virus even though vaccinations are greatly reducing the risk.

  3. A previous pre-pandemic diagnosis of social anxiety being triggered by having to engage with more people, expectations to return to work and have face-to-face meetings.

If your anxiety is stopping you, seek support, speak to your GP, find a therapist.

Written by Michelle Green, Author of Shaping Your New Normal: Navigating Your Life After the Global Covid-19