After more than a year of pandemic living, I was really looking forward to a “return to normal”. But when the restrictions around public gatherings gradually started to be lifted, I felt immediate anxiety. Not being an anxious person or someone who typically worries, I wasn’t prepared for the flood of negative and confusing emotions.
Which of my friends should I see first? What will my friends think of me, given I’m not a “phone person” and haven’t reached out in a very long time? What will happen if I meet a friend after work, but run into someone else I wasn’t expecting and our gathering is larger? I found myself constantly googling the current restrictions to see what was safe.
It turns out I’m not alone in my experience. There’s even a term for it – re-entry anxiety, which is when you feel uneasy about returning to the old normal of schools and offices, hugs and handshakes, and social gatherings large and small.
Re-entry anxiety is a very normal part of the change process and it’s important to communicate your needs, go at your own pace, and to think of the changes as a way to build resilience. I found this article by the University of Southern California San Francisco with expert advice on navigating COVID-19 re-openings to be really helpful. It reminded me of a lesson I was taught many years ago — you have to feel to heal, and tell to get well.
As we all navigate the new normal together, I hope you find this helpful and can take comfort that you aren’t alone.