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If you or someone close to you has had Covid since the pandemic really struck us in 2020, you are definitely not alone. The level of its spread was never anticipated by anyone, and most people in privileged positions would have said that it wouldn’t have lasted very long, who knew that we would still be in one right now. Things however are much better now than what they were, having gone through 2-3 waves in India at least. With the advent of the vaccines, the intensity of the more recent strains has overall been less chaotic, but it is never possible to fully eradicate it. Covid Anxiety or anxiety after Covid is difficult to deal with today. However, it needs to be examined, what is causing this, and how can I make things better?
What is causing Anxiety post Covid?
Despite having gone through many waves of the virus all around, whether you have been directly affected or not doesn’t really matter (although it does definitely significantly heighten the problems). Maybe you (or a loved one) recovered at home, maybe they recovered at a hospital, maybe they weren’t badly affected, maybe they were hanging on by a thread- either way, it is unanimous a feeling of panic that everyone had. It was a frightening experience for everyone, but this is where the part of anxiety can be explained- this is normal. Yes, this post-Covid anxiety is very normal, and it is better analyzed through what we call the ‘flight-or-fight response’ wherein our body responds with bodily changes such as increased heart rates, heavy breathing, sweating, and sharp attention. This is a function that we still have from our ancestors when man was but a wild animal, and was in physical danger and needed to protect himself from elements of the environment. So therefore it works the same way when you recollect your experience in a hospital. The brain makes associations with smells and sights there.
This does decrease over time, but it can take a lot of time.
There are ways such as the following, in which people cope with these events-
- They either completely avoid the topic or avoid any remembrance of the things that took place in the past. This is a very normal thing to do, doesn’t anyone who has been through some traumatic life event not want to revisit it?
- Or, they suppress their thoughts, and it could work for some people, but doesn’t work for others. This is a means of your brain trying to understand what really went down and process the events.
Although these are coping mechanisms, one of the most effective methods is by self-assuring. You are safe right now, and you will be able to take on more challenges in life, and this was one of them.
Which age groups are affected?
There really isn't a particular age group that is only affected by this. It could affect teenagers, young adults to even senior citizens, and this is a perfectly normal thing to be occurring amongst everyone! Lets learn a little about how to overcome anxiety:
Ways to overcome Reentry Anxiety
With the ‘real’ world opening up, we are slowly having to get accustomed to the old ways. Socializing is definitely something that went down during the pandemic (and physical ones should have!), but normal things like going out shopping, meeting people, watching movies in theatres, and such are now all becoming more acceptable and safe. However, there are ways of being hesitant in these cases because it is difficult to want to and actually get back there (especially if you have been badly affected by Covid).
This form of post-pandemic reentry anxiety is generally seen as a form of agoraphobia, which is a fear of crowds and people. Going back to the old ways is definitely tough, but there are ways to make the process easier as well. So how to overcome fear and anxiety after covid?
Talk to people! This is a basic thing but talk to people about why you feel the way you feel. What you will be shocked to see is that so many people also share the same sense of anxiety. Be with people who you like, and that will definitely help you get back into the world with more people around.
Remember to set boundaries as well. Don’t do things that you don’t want to, if you don’t think it is safe for you. If you have an immunocompromised member at home, you could choose to hang out with friends who are vaccinated and you could avoid going to crowded shopping malls and do shopping online instead.
Start with a small gathering before you engage with a large group of people all at once, it will help to keep you grounded.
Make a list of things that you wanted to do, that you were putting off for a while because of the pandemic. Maybe going to a club was something you wanted to do, and now with things opening up again, you could do it! Exposure is definitely key here, and the first time is definitely the most overwhelming, but this does get easier with time. Each subsequent social event will start feeling less of a burden once you get back into the groove.
Definitely get back to doing things that you liked doing pre-pandemic. If you enjoyed swimming before, make sure you sign up for swimming lessons again now that pools are opening up again. There will be some sense of familiarity, which is always a good thing!
Change up smaller (or larger) things about your appearance. Maybe try wearing something that is a little out of your comfort zone, just to change up things.
Lastly, if this anxiety is hampering the way you function on a day-to-day basis, perhaps the best will be to consult a professional- which is always a very safe option anyway. Maybe there might be some deeper-rooted cause to this anxiety, especially if you’ve had a particularly traumatic time in the pandemic. This will definitely give you the much-needed tools to get back in the world!
What else can I do to help manage my anxiety and fear?
Other than these methods, you can start by being nicer to yourself. The Marie Kondo method could be something that you could do, wherein you could figure out what people, and places gave you joy in the past and associate with them. Slowly, you could ease out of it in time, but starting with places and people you like will prompt you to look out for other things as well.
Go easy on yourself. The pandemic definitely hasn’t been easy on anyone, and don’t feel bad if you are having difficulties getting back to the old ways of things. Maybe even looking towards ambivert tendencies of wanting to be social at times but at the same wanting to have your sacred safe space as well, is nice to keep in mind. These are just a few things that can answer the question, how to stop anxiety after covid.
In conclusion, we can say that the pandemic has left us stripped of social skills, even the extroverts who enjoy talking to people. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious when going back into the world, and there is simply no shame in being honest about it. Almost every person has a sense of fear when meeting with so many now, but like with most things in life, it’ll pass. Getting back into it will make things easier for you, and it is better to get accustomed to this while things are slow and steady. Make sure you do what’s good for you and keep in mind where you need to be, and you should be good to go!