COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend, more people are getting vaccinated, and it feels like the world is gradually opening up again. Yet despite this recent development, many individuals are experiencing post-pandemic anxiety.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, a whopping 50% of Americans are experiencing anxiety about re-entering the world after lockdown.
So if you’re feeling your anxiety increase as bars and restaurants fill back up and masks come off, you’re not alone.
But Wait, Shouldn’t We Be Happy That Things Are Going Back to Normal?
Over this tough past year, most of us grieved the loss of some piece of “normal.” We all experienced unprecedented fear, uncertainty, and trauma, regardless of if we lost a loved one or got COVID ourselves.
We probably all missed hugging a family member or missed our girls’ night hangouts, or maybe just felt like you’d have done anything to get a haircut!
We can both rejoice in the return of many things we missed while experiencing COVID anxiety as life after lockdown presents a whole new set of challenges.
So while the world opening back up is what we often longed for this past year, it’s not so simple. We can both rejoice in the return of many things we missed while experiencing COVID anxiety as life after lockdown presents a whole new set of challenges.
Here Are 4 Reasons You Might Have Post-Pandemic Anxiety, Plus Thoughts to Help You Process:
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons we might be feeling post-pandemic anxiety, plus some thoughts on weathering these uncharted waters.
1. Take Off My Mask? Say What!?
Remember when wearing a mask to the grocery store felt totally bizarre? Neither do we.
Honestly, it seems like we’ve all been wearing masks since . . . forever, so the idea that those who are vaccinated can now forgo theirs in many settings according to the CDC is sending many of us for a loop.
Sure, masks may have been a pain or the culprit behind maskne (mask acne), but for many they also signified safety, responsibility, and caring for our own health and others.
According to the American Psychological Association, a whopping 50% of Americans are experiencing anxiety about re-entering the world after lockdown.
If masks made you feel much safer in public settings, then it makes sense that thinking about shedding them can trigger post-pandemic anxiety.
And there’s also still a lot we don’t know about the science of this pandemic – even the experts are figuring it out as we go. This uncertainty can contribute massively to your anxiety.
(By the way, if you feel less anxious with your mask on even if vaxxed, keep it on! It doesn’t hurt and we want to protect those who are unvaccinated around us.)
2. You Might Not Want to Let Go of the Lockdown Pace of Life Post-Pandemic
Masks and medical matters aside, another cause of COVID anxiety can be imagining returning to a more normal pace of life. While there were so many hardships of the pandemic, there were, for some, some very real benefits of a slower pace of life.
For the fortunate ones of us, the emptier calendar and the lessened obligations and pressure to always be on the go was a welcome change of pace.
You may have also learned some lessons about your own boundaries and energetic capacity that you may want to implement in your life after lockdown.
The pandemic may have been the first time you could remember being caught up on sleep, picking up hobbies just for fun, or maybe learning better self-care habits. At the very least, you probably baked some banana bread or wore more loungewear!
So it makes sense that the idea of life after lockdown could trigger some serious post-pandemic anxiety.
No doubt, it’s important to spend quality time with friends and loved ones again when it’s safe to. But you may have also learned some lessons about your own boundaries and energetic capacity that you may want to implement in your life after lockdown.
And that’s beautiful self-awareness!
3. Things Have Changed Post-Pandemic: Find Your Own Pace of Acceptance
It can feel like there’s a set timeline on what “everyone” “should” be doing, as the world opens back up. But there’s not. None of us have done this before. Move with gentleness, at a pace that feels right for you!
If the idea of life after lockdown feels stressful, take baby steps. That might look like gathering outside with vaccinated friends only, or keeping your masks on. Maybe try grabbing groceries in person instead of getting delivery, and see how it feels.
It can also be helpful to simply acknowledge that much of our old collective “normal” may have been shed in the past year for good – for better or worse.
Things like your employment, your relationships, your place of living, or your priorities and outlook on life may have shifted since you last went out into the world. You may feel like a whole new person in some aspects of post-pandemic life, and if so, you’re not alone.
4. Don’t Feel Pressured to Sweep Your Post-Pandemic Anxiety Under the Rug
There’s no other way to put it – this past year was traumatic. And while many of us have a societally-engrained tendency to rush back to “business as usual,” please give yourself the time and space you need to process the pandemic and all that came with it.
No matter your level of loss during this past year, we’re all mourning and still processing the enormous fear, changes, and uncertainty we felt – not to mention the tragic loss of loved ones so many are experiencing.
Don’t let society pressure you to get back to normal without ample time to process all that.
Perhaps now is the time to seek out therapy, lean into meditation or yoga more than usual, or journal and reflect on what you just lived through.
Caring for Your Mental Wellbeing Will Help Relieve Post-Pandemic Anxiety
However you’re feeling about the world opening back up is totally valid – and one reminder that applies to all of us is to give ourselves grace.
Whether we’re ready to have a social summer, or not quite ready to leave your bubble, there is no “right” way to be now, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for it.
So while none of us know what the future will hold (ever!), if the hard past year taught us all anything, hopefully it’s that taking time to care for our mental wellbeing should always be a priority.
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.