OCEAN COUNTY – As residents in Ocean County and statewide get closer to returning to a “pre-pandemic normal” life, many may feel increased stress and anxiety about going back to the way things were before the unprecedented health crisis.
About 50 percent of adults said they feel uncomfortable returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). In addition, about 48 percent of those who received the COVID-19 vaccine said they feel the same way.
“The lives we got used to the past year are now changing,” said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “Whether you have family members going back to school or work, or if you’re heading back to on-site work yourself, a period of emotional adjustment may be needed while people settle back in.”
“We’ve all been waiting a long time for things to return to the way we knew them before the pandemic,” said Ocean County Commissioner Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “But getting back to that sense of normalcy will be a unique and personal experience for each of us so we should try and be considerate of that in our daily dealings with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.”
The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) states how social anxiety is more acute and common during COVID. With most people having to stay home, social interactions were avoided for the past year.
Although guidelines are constantly changing and businesses are reopening, many are still concerned and carrying thoughts of uncertainty.
A recent study in April found that 10.8 percent of people met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning to work, stated in an OCHD press release.
The OCHD have listed out numerous tips on how to reduce this stress and to become prepared for what the future holds:
Reduce Anxiety by Creating a New Normal: Fortunately, there are some steps you can take provided by the Boston University Psychotherapy and Emotion Research Center to help dial down reentry stress, whether or not you are vaccinated.
- Coming up with a new routine to replace your pandemic rituals (such as a weekly video conference call with friends) is a key way to introduce some level of predictability into post-pandemic life. That’s because the routines of daily life have a big impact on how we view the world. Studies suggest having a routine was strongly associated with the feeling of living a meaningful life.
- So go ahead and commit to a weekly outdoor workout or walk with a friend. But just because you adopt new rituals doesn’t mean you have to toss out habits you’ve acquired during the pandemic, particularly if they feel beneficial.
Make a Leap Into the Future:
- Think about making travel plans. Arranging future travel plans will give you a sense of positivity.
- Plus, scheduling concrete experiences will ensure that you move forward even if it feels scary. Forcing yourself into situations that may make you anxious, even once it’s safe to do so, can be the best way to overcome those anxieties.
Work Within Your Comfort Zone:
- Rather than going to a movie theater or eating indoors at a restaurant, you may want to try outdoor socializing with a small group of vaccinated people. In other words, take it slow. If it makes you feel safer to wear a mask, even when you’re with a vaccinated group, do it.
- Masks will likely be a part of life moving forward anyway, especially during cold and flu season.
But Push Your Limits a Bit:
- For people with a preexisting social anxiety disorder, more than a year of lockdowns and physical distancing has likely taken a toll and perhaps exacerbated anxious tendencies. But it’s crucial for people with social anxiety to fight the urge to remain isolated. If you feel like you need extra support, a therapist may help.
Treat Yourself With Love: Regenye went on to say that you need to be kind to yourself as life begins to return to its pre-pandemic rhythms. Take it slow and remember it’s ok to have these feelings. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed don’t hesitate and reach out to your healthcare provider.