Travel. Seeing friends. Returning to normal life again. As vaccines go into arms, there are lots of positive signs for the future. But not everyone is excited about reverting to their old routines. It’s normal to feel anxious as the country adjusts to a post-pandemic future. The morning rush hour. Face-to-face meetings. Crowded spaces. These things might trigger anxiety and cause serious stress. Here are a few tips for adjusting to a world after Covid.
Talk about your feelings
Don’t keep things bottled up. Share your anxieties with a friend, co-worker, or a professional and speak what’s on your mind. Putting your feelings into words helps you take charge of your mental health and regulate your emotions.
It might be awkward to talk about your feelings, and that’s normal too. So think of a few words that describe how you feel – nervous, depressed, worried, angry, and so on. It makes it easier to share your emotions with another person. Alternatively, write your feelings in an email and send a private message to someone you trust.
Talk to your employer
Feelings of stress and anxiety might stem from working at home for so long. Transitioning from home life to the workplace can be a daunting prospect, so talk to your employer about any concerns.
Be specific about your feelings. Are you worried about an increase in your workload? Or being in a crowded office? Or the stress of the morning commute? The more your employer knows, the more help you’ll receive. Most organizations have mental health resources that will guide you through this tough time.
Alternatively, ask your boss if you can work from home for a little longer or adopt a hybrid work model, where you perform some duties at home and come into the office less frequently. This alternative working arrangement has increased in popularity since the pandemic, and it might be something your employer will try. You won’t know unless you ask.
As governments relax stay-at-home and social distancing orders, expect busier malls, livelier streets, and more traffic on the road. All of this might fill you with dread, but there’s little to fear. If you feel anxious in crowded spaces, take a few deep breaths and try to find a comfortable place to sit down. Research shows deep breathing increases oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, which slows your heartbeat, reduces blood pressure, and lowers stress levels.
Try deep breathing at home too. Mindfulness is a relaxation technique that involves sitting somewhere quiet and paying close attention to your breathing. Various apps help you practice mindfulness, including Calm and Headspace. Other at-home relaxation techniques include yoga, guided imagery, and taking a long soak in the bath.
Another tip is to create a relaxation space in your home to practice mindfulness, get lost in a book, or watch your favorite Netflix show. The centerpiece of your new space? A comfy sofa. Home of Cozy has the latest furniture reviews and guides so you can find the perfect sofa for your budget and lifestyle.
If you feel uneasy about the post-Covid future, regular exercise can reduce the effects of stress. That’s because physical activity, in whatever form, triggers the release of endorphins in the brain – the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemical. Exercise improves your mood because it has a positive impact on the brain’s neurotransmitters.
It doesn’t matter what exercise you do, as long as you do something. How about a brisk jog around the block every morning? Or 20 minutes on the treadmill? Or walking your dog? Regular exercise helps you destress and take your mind off your anxieties.
Watch what you eat
Proper nutrition also has a significant impact on stress levels. Science shows a direct correlation between stress and unhealthy nutritional habits, with stressed individuals more likely to consume a diet of hyper-palatable food (soda, chips, hamburgers, and other junk).
Try changing your diet and see if you notice an improvement in your anxiety levels as you re-acclimate to life after Covid. Fatty fish, matcha powder, broccoli, and chamomile tea are a few foods that might reduce stress. Cutting back on the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume can also improve well-being.
Cortisol is a hormone that makes you feel more stressed, and people who don’t drink enough fluids have more of this stuff in their bodies. If you don’t consume enough water, you might feel anxious about the future and worry about returning to work or social situations again.
How much water should you drink? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend a daily fluid intake of around 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) for women.
Not everyone is excited about returning to pre-pandemic life, and you might be one of them. The fear of going back to work or seeing old friends might cause you feelings of anxiety, stress, or even depression. Follow the tips above and slowly adjust to any new work and social arrangements in the months ahead.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.