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As predicted, the pandemic is going out with a fizzle, not with a bang.
Much like pandemics of years gone by, COVID-19 is slow in its process to relent, but regardless, it’s happening. Between the confusing mask mandates, the ever-changing statistics and the vaccine not reaching everybody yet, my COVID anxiety is often high, perhaps even more now that many places are opening their doors again.
However, I know that I can’t always let anxiety—COVID or otherwise—run my life. And while there may be some tough times, I’m learning how to manage and balance my life according to my comfort level, and the world around me. COVID-19 anxiety can be particularly hard, as the line is ever-changing between internalized anxiety, and real precaution and concern. Regardless, I’ve managed my anxiety in order to rejoin the world at my own pace.
Here are five ways I deal with COVID-19 anxiety as the world reopens:
1. Learning to trust those around me
With many businesses lifting their mask mandates for vaccinated patrons, there is always a small chance that those without vaccines will take advantage of the honor system and go mask-less, putting more people at risk for infection. This has certainly caused me anxiety as I walk around places with people going mask-less for the first time in ages. However, I’ve found that trusting those around me is the best way to go when it comes to easing my anxieties. Other people probably feel the same way as me, and the point of the honor system is to honor them.
2. A little exposure therapy
Even though exposure therapy can be a daunting idea, I’ve found that going outside of my comfort zone, little by little, has helped to readjust to things as they go back to normal. While going to a big indoor concert mask-less might be pushing it, going shopping with a friend or two feels a bit safer.
3. Acknowledging the loss
One of the sources of my anxiety has been the dissonance of feeling like the world has already forgotten about what has happened. The idea that everybody wants to move forward and completely forget about the physical and mental toll of this year has left me feeling alone, and almost like I am going crazy.
Of course, I know that people around me acknowledge the loss that the pandemic has brought, and acknowledging that has helped me to remember that I’m not alone. In fact, 72 percent of Americans felt COVID-19 disrupted their lives “some” or “a lot.” Those aren’t insignificant figures, so that goes to show that we can strike a balance between acknowledging it and moving forward.
4. Wearing my mask, even when it’s not mandatory
Unless we live in a major metropolitan city, the mask mandates have moved to a fixture of the past. Aside from travel and public transport, most people who are fully vaccinated aren’t required to wear masks indoors. I’ve noticed friends and family members forgetting their masks when we go out together because they have no need for them anymore.
If it makes us feel comfortable to continue wearing our mask even though they are not mandatory, we can. Personally, I have found that when I’m in a situation where my anxiety gets too high, putting my mask on for extra protection—even when I don’t need to—makes me feel at ease. There are plenty of countries where it is the norm to wear a mask if you’re sick, to avoid spreading contagious illnesses to others, even the common cold. Therefore, I find there’s nothing wrong with putting on a mask if it makes me feel comfortable.
5. Using calming and grounding techniques
Of course, COVID-19 anxiety is still anxiety at the end of the day. Whether or not it comes about as a result of a completely warranted situation, nobody likes to feel anxious day in and day out. I found that turning to traditional calming and grounding techniques has helped me soothe my anxiety—especially with all the changes that have been happening in the world. Simple activities such as crafting, journaling, exercising, yoga, deep breathing, meditating, and going for walks in nature have all been great help during this time.
There are many ways to calm and soothe anxiety. From trusting others, acknowledging the loss of the past year, to traditional grounding techniques—I have found productive and balanced ways to cope and move past my anxiety as the world reopens.
Do you have any favorite grounding techniques that help calm you?