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,