After a year of internalizing the message, “Stay at home. Do not socialize. Keep 6-feet apart. Wear a mask,” how do we suddenly become comfortable re-adjusting again to a more familiar, integrated way of life? Many clients have recently expressed anxieties and fears over what life will look like as more people get their vaccinations, and the world starts to open up.
Some clients think they have developed Agoraphobia because of COVID, and feel they cannot ever leave the confines of their homes. How do we find a comfortable balance so that the expectation is not for us to remain in a bubble forever?
While it is important to still be mindful and to continue to maintain mask-wearing when out in public, vaccines will enable us to widen our social circles, to spend more time out of our homes, to potentially return to our offices and even to travel. This can make us feel overwhelmed, as re-entering the world brings with it different expectations, challenges, and pressures. Some clients who have put their dating lives on hold due to COVID now feel a sense of urgency to begin to date again. They express feeling pressure and like they no longer have an “excuse” to not date. Some clients feel like their offices are re-opening prematurely and feel anxiety over potential super spreader scenarios. A helpful way to manage these anxieties is to remind ourselves that we don’t need to jump right in. We can take re-entry a piece at a time. Maybe it looks like going to the grocery store instead of ordering groceries. Maybe it looks like re-activating dating apps. Or going to the office two times a week instead of four times a week.
Re-entry also looks like setting boundaries; knowing when you are comfortable to say no and when to say yes. If you are comfortable traveling to see your family but not to go on a vacation with your friends, that is okay. If you are focusing on leaving your home just to go to work but not socializing, that is okay. Now is not the time to judge yourself or anyone else’s choices — everyone is comfortable with different things.
It is also okay to try re-entry, and decide that you are not ready yet. If you spend time with friends and feel uncomfortable, it is okay to say no next time. It is also helpful to communicate your feelings and thoughts preemptively to friends and family so that people are all on the same page and can serve as supports for each other. If you find that someone is making you feel pressured, uncomfortable or judged for your choices, it is important to address this.
Expressing your boundaries and comfort levels will help the people in your life to respect your choices. No one can read your mind and we cannot assume that people will know where we stand.
It is important to remember that everyone is figuring out re-entry and that no one has been through this before. There is no hard and fast right and wrong — so it is crucial to be gentle towards ourselves and our loved ones as this new chapter begins.