You’re pretty sure you’re supposed to be excited these days, right? Here in the Bay Area Spring has sprung and businesses and schools are openings. Social restrictions are easing and vaccinations are finally happening. So why then do you feel overwhelmed or on-edge when you hear someone talk about post-quarantine life, like you’ve got some version of the Sunday Scaries?
Well, first let me say: You’re not the only one. Not by a long shot. While folks may not be talking publicly about post-quarantine anxiety, many are experiencing it. It’s also common to experience a mix of anxiety and excitement, craving connection and feeling fearful at the same time. It makes absolute sense when you look a the context.
We've been living in social isolation for the better part of a year, but you knew that. The rest of the recap includes: a fire season fueled by climate change as well as rolling blackouts. All this, against a backdrop of political unrest and much needed social revolution. It’s been a year in which we navigated ongoing grief, loss and trauma, so much so that it became the norm and now our nervous systems may be on high alert. That’s the big picture.
On a micro level, many folks have been and continue to contemplate weighty questions about their personal lives – their relationships, communities, professions, purposes and so on. When all is said and done, folks are wondering what they’re going back to a/o what they’d like to build.
Truly, it’s a lot and it’s important to go at your own pace. It’s okay to go slow. Go fast. Dive in. Back up. Hideout. And try again. Trust yourself and your process. This transition is no small thing and it’s definitely not a race.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed or on edge, here are three strategies to start working with post-quarantine anxiety and stress.
Check your Narrative – Humans are storytelling creatures by nature and we’re always creating narratives to better understand our experience. These stories have power and if you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worst case scenarios, it’s likely you’ll feel an increase in anxiety. The good news is we can re-write those narratives or expand them to include more possibility. Here’s an example: “There’s going to be pressure to attend social gathering and my friends are going to get mad at me because I don’t feel comfortable.” Vs “Restrictions are easing and I can go at my own pace. My friends will understand. ” If you’re interested in learning more about shaping narratives check out my blog post on just that topic here.
Set Your Boundaries – Here, I’m referring specifically to setting boundaries around information intake whether through media or conversation. Start by being mindful of how much information about the pandemic is actually useful to you and at what point you begin to feel physical or emotional signs of anxiety. This may look like worrisome thoughts, tense shoulders or increased heart rate – as examples. Your boundary should come BEFORE you experience these symptoms. What would it be like for you to set and follow this boundary?
Express Your Feelings Creatively – Symptoms of anxiety, stress and trauma only gain power when keep them in. One way to metabolize your feelings is by expressing them creatively through art or writing. Give it a try! The idea here is to remove any censor and let yourself play with words, images, color, texture etc. You don’t need to create a pretty picture or perfect poem. This is for your eyes only. If you’re seeking prompts for your creative expression, join me on Instagram where I post expressive arts prompts every Thursday.
Before I sign off here, I’ll add that if you feel you could benefit from additional support, please reach out to a professional. In my practice, I specialize in supporting powerhouse women and girls in California, who struggle with anxiety, stress and trauma. Ya’ll know who you are, always thinking you need to get by on your own, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Having someone in your corner that gets you can make all the difference, especially during such an epic transition.
To learn more about my work and approach you can visit here or message me directly. If you're interested in learning more about psychotherapy and clinicians in your area, you may want to check out the Inclusive Therapy Directory, as well as Therapy Den.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
Most of us have experienced a dose of toxic positivity at one time or another. It tends to happen in the most vulnerable moments when we're feeling down or worried, reach out to a friend or family member for comfort and instead get a message like this: think positive or it could be worse.
If you find experiences like these disheartening, you're not alone. While the person telling you chin-up usually means well, the result can be jarring. It's also possible that the person doling out the advice just isn't comfortable with harder emotions and so their forced silver-lining-attitude is really an attempt at prioritizing their own feelings over your experience.
In truth, pushing someone to think positively when they are feeling anything but, invalidates their experience. At best it can feel tone deaf and at worst it is a form of gas lighting leaving the person receiving the feedback doubting their own experience.
A common scenario these days is based on feelings related to the pandemic. I'll often hear clients recount stories of sharing their grief or anxiety with someone and being received with "at least you're healthy" or "at least you have a job."
In session, I support clients to unpack their experience more thoroughly, as well as relationship dynamics, but for the purposes of this post I'll say that yes, it may be true that someone is healthy and employed and there is plenty of room for gratitude there. At the same time, it may also be true that they are struggling with isolation, grief and worry about so many other aspects of the pandemic. Both can be true and one experience does not nullify the other.
So, what to do when faced with the toxicity? Well, first recognize it for what it is.
Pain, anger, sadness, grief, worry and the like are all part of the human experience. It is normal and healthy to experience these feelings. Please know that.
After noting the dynamic that's taking shape you have the option of either naming it to the other person and making a request OR you can remove yourself from the situation if that feels better to you. The priority is to tend to your emotional injury.
Next, consider seeking healthy support from a source you know to be emotionally safe - whether a family member, community leader or psychotherapist. Reparative experience (i.e. someone who listens, validates and attunes to you) is essential in the emotional healing process.
If you’re need of support please feel free to reach out here! And to learn more about my approach to supporting women and girls you can visit my Web site here.
Till next time wishing you health & ease,