Q: I have spent the last 15 months leaving home only for the most essential reasons. I occasionally saw close neighbors but always wore a face covering and kept a safe distance. Since I live by myself, this was a very lonely time. I felt fortunate to get the vaccine once it became available to people over age 70. Now that some restrictions are being lifted, I think I should be excited, but I am reluctant and nervous about resuming many old activities. Am I overreacting?
A: You may be experiencing what is being called “re-entry anxiety.”
A report from the American Psychological Association indicates 50% of Americans have some level of anxiety about resuming in-person interactions. Some individuals can’t wait to return to previous routines and lifestyles, while others, like yourself, are apprehensive about getting back to “normal.”
Most of us went through a period of adjustment when the pandemic first hit. After so many worrisome months, the transition ahead may present challenges for some people.
Some may balk at going back to the office as opposed to working from home. Others may worry about the pressure imposed by friends and family to resume social gatherings. Even people who are fully vaccinated may not be convinced the threat of exposure is minimized.
Give some thought and decide what activities meant the most to you before COVID spread across the country. Let those special times help motivate you to ease back into life on the outside.
Take it slow, but don’t totally put off re-entering society because the longer you wait, the more difficult your re-entry may be. You could try having a meal outside with friends or inviting someone over for a short visit just to talk.
If you are experiencing stress-related reactions such as headaches, sleeplessness, stomach aches, or tightness in your neck and shoulders, please consider consulting a mental health professional, either in person or online.
All of us have experienced a prolonged national trauma. You should feel no shame to admit you may need help moving forward.
Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.