“Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room. The only one you can hear.” – Unknown
Although we are not yet in a place that we can really call ‘post pandemic’, it does feel like the world is returning to some kind of normal functionality. As exciting as this is, many of us will be feeling a lot of anxiety connected to getting back out there.
Whether you still don’t really leave your house, or you have been out in the world trying to make things work again for a little while now, most of us are still coming up on new things, or on things ‘that we haven’t done since this all began’. These ‘things’ might be going back into the workplace, returning to public transport, attending social events, or even just going to the supermarket ‘in person’ for the first time in forever.
The world is full of fresh anxieties now, and I think it is fair to say, especially considering our collective wellbeing and resilience has taken a bit of a battering over the past two years, that a big chunk of us are feeling ‘post-pandemic anxiety’ at times. The thing about anxiety is that it feels very personal and often very lonely. I, as a long-time sufferer of anxiety, still manage to get wrapped up and pulled in by it and forget that a negative emotion such as this is always lightened when the experience is shared.
So, if you are feeling any of the following anxieties right now, know this… you are not the only one.
I remember the first time I went back out to a social occasion a few months ago. I was really concerned that I had kind of forgotten how to talk to other people. The thing is, I wasn’t wrong! I struggled to muster up subjects for conversation, I interrupted people and I didn’t listen as actively as I used to. This is all totally understandable, as I hadn’t had many conversations with more than one or two people in a long time.
However, the same was true for everyone else. The next few times I went out after that, I offered a disclaimer stating that I was ‘a bit rusty socially’. Every time, the reply I got was that everybody else felt the same.
It’s perfectly ok to feel a bit out of practice in social situations. So, remaining honest and conscious of how you operate, knowing that others will be doing the same, should help ease the worry.
2. Being in Close Proximity to Others
Being close to others can still feel uncomfortable. We have been told to distance ourselves for so long, and now we are moving closer together again. When it come to public transport, this can be particularly challenging. But as with all of these anxieties, the best thing to do is focus on what you can control, and not what you can’t. if you can distance yourself from people (if that is something you still wish to do), then do so. If you can’t take your own precautions. It is also ok to ask people not to shake hands with you or hug you.
3. Ever-Changing Social Rules
With the rules relaxing, and the ones that still exist becoming increasingly vague and society led, there is a lot of anxiety over locking horns with those who feel differently about what is and isn’t appropriate. Coming from the position of accepting the opinions of others is a good way to deal with this. Let other people do their thing and insist that you be able to do yours. We have all rattle and managed to various degrees, so it does not do to assume people’s reasons for behaving in a particular way.
4. “Have I Still Got It?”
I remember the biggest worry about returning to work was wondering if I still had all my skills and knowledge… as if the long break would mean that all the information had left my brain entirely. I was conscious that, in my job, momentum is a big part of what keeps my skills alive and resilient.
I’m pleased to say that I did still have everything I needed. Yes, when I switched ‘the engine’ back on, it did splutter a bit as the dust rattled off, but after a few days, things were ticking over again. It turns out that the skills we care about don’t leave, but it does take a short while to get them out of storage.
And remember, if you arrive in a moment when anxiety is getting the better of you… breathe. More often than not, this will calm the storm… at least for a while.
“Slow breathing is like an anchor in the midst of an emotional storm: the anchor won’t make the storm goes away, but it will hold you steady until it passes.” – Russ Harris
By Chris Thomson
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