We have officially spent over a week in Step 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen,

something many of us have been waiting for since March of 2020. After going through the stress, uncertainty, and constant change, you may feel as though there is finally light at the end of the tunnel!

If we have some of the freedoms back that we’ve been been missing, you may be wondering how we could be anxious about returning back to ‘normal’? More than half of Canadians are experiencing a form of anxiety related to resuming in-person activities. Our brains are working hard to switch gears after fearing exposure to the virus for so long! Today we encourage you to re-engage on your own terms for personal comfort, whether that means jumping right in or taking it slow.

Human beings have been through other pandemics. Human beings have been through a lot of different things and we are wired to connect socially and to adjust to different social settings. Big social changes are hard so the shift that we did make with this pandemic was hard and so a little bit of nervousness, a little bit of difficulty bouncing back is normal. However, your skills are probably going to return much faster than you think they are.

Dr. Dawn Potter

Clinical Psychologist, Dealing with Social Anxiety in a Post-Pandemic World

Lockdown comforts

While adjusting to pandemic protocols was a big transition, we learned to adapt. Finding the silver lining was not always easy, but some perceived a sense of solidarity, discovered a convenience in services, and were motivated to focus on self-care.

Mental health

We’re sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘we are all in this together’. While everyone has had their own pandemic experiences, there was a sense of unity in everyone being affected one way or another. 

People have always struggled with mental illness, but over the course of Covid-19 the importance of mental health was highlighted and people saw an increase in representation. Virtual options made support more accessible and resources increased. Difficult times were acknowledge making individuals feel less alone.

physical appearance

Being back in the public eye may make you feel more self-conscious, especially when comparing yourself to others. 

During periods of lockdowns, many no longer felt the need to dress up as there was nowhere to go and personal care services were closed – everyone was in the same boat with overgrown hair, roots, and unmanicured nails. This relieved some stress of having to look your best to achieve acceptance, perhaps directing time and energy towards nourishing your body, skin, and hair. 

temptations

It is common to feel certain pressures in social situations. For instance, if you didn’t plan on drinking but go out for dinner and the company you are with partakes, you may be easily persuaded to keep from missing out. At home, you are less exposed to external influence and feel more in control of your choices. 

Reflect on what made you feel good during the lockdowns and think of how you can incorporate aspects of it as you expand your comfort zone. It could look like continuing therapy, designating a day each week to stay at home, or making time to work out.

Reflect on what made you feel good during the lockdowns and think of how you can incorporate aspects of it as you expand your comfort zone. It could look like continuing therapy, designating a day each week to stay at home, or making time to work out. 

Coping with Coronophobia

communicate

Name it to tame it: acknowledging your feelings can help you recognize your triggers so you can better control them. So, if you know you feel nervous around crowded areas, you may opt to visit natural spaces that are less dense. If you don’t want to sacrifice social interactions, do nature focused activities one on one. As well, be open about your concerns as to give others the opportunity to support you. Not only will you be able to set boundaries, but your loved ones may be able to offer suggestions, give resources, and share tools that have worked for them.

Prioritize

You are your biggest advocate. It is possible your priorities in life have changed over the course of the last 17 months. What became important to you? What have you been missing? It is recommended to engage in an overall healthy lifestyle when managing anxiety. When you have an upcoming trigger (going back to the office) eat a healthy meal, go to sleep early, avoid alcohol and anything else that is going to make you feel bad the next day so you can start off on the right foot. Do your own research but remember to fact check as there is a lot of misinformation being spread. 

Take Control

As much as we would like to at times, we cannot control the actions and behaviours of others. What we can control is our own actions and reactions. If you would prefer to wear a mask around others or socially distance when it is not a requirement, do so if it makes you feel safer! Take it slow by eating on a patio before indoor dining or seeing one friend before participating in a group setting. This helps to build confidence over time. Go at your own pace and don’t let others dissuade you from doing what makes you fell most comfortable!
BEING MINDFUL:

With everyone being at varying stages of vaccination and having personal comfort levels, it is important to be patient and respectful of others. The world has never been in full agreement on one thing, so COVID-19 perspectives are no different. Encourage people to move forward at their own pace without placing additional pressures on them to get to a certain point. Be careful not to judge others who are getting back out there visiting friends and restaurants as it is their right and may be beneficial to their mental health. Try to have some empathy for what people are going though, and if things cannot be civil, you can always reiterate your boundaries.

You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step - Martin Luther King
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