As a therapist with a specialty in life transitions, I’m aware that even positive changes can make us feel unsettled. And lots of Americans have been going through what might be called “back to normal anxiety” as COVID-19 restrictions disappear and things appear to be returning more and more to what might be called “normal.”
Even something as simple as a change in routine takes some getting used to. People who are making positive changes in their lives are often unsettled by the temporary disappearance of old routines and settling into new routines. Routines often give us comfort in that they may help keep our lives in order. And people’s routines have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And now–guess what?–routines for many are changing again.
“Back to Normal Anxiety” and 2020-21 trauma
A large number of people around the world have been going through trauma as a result of the pandemic. Whether it is related to fear of catching the virus, trauma as a result of you and/or loved ones catching the virus, losing a loved as a result, economic dislocation due to business failure or being laid off from a job, worry about being able to pay the bills, feeling triggered by the murder of George Floyd, protests from all across the political spectrum, or even the January 6 storming of the Capitol– 2020 and the first few months of 2021 have been among the most traumatic in recent memory.
Many people still feel vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and they may not be wrong. The World Health Organization just issued a recommendation that even vaccinated people continue to wear masks at indoor public places, as did Los Angeles County. The Internet is filled with conflicting information about the pandemic and it might be hard to know who to believe sometimes. This could certainly feel “back to normal anxiety.”
If you are feeling such “back to normal anxiety”, it’s important to identify why you might feel that way. Do you feel that you are being forced into uncomfortable situations because you feel that things are opening up too quickly? Do you feel you are returning to a situation that didn’t feel too comfortable before the pandemic and which you dread now? Has being removed from a workplace caused you to reconsider whether you want to work there? Perhaps old feelings are starting to return that you’d forgotten about.
Isolation has been a difficult consequence of the pandemic. You might be eagerly awaiting seeing friends and acquaintances again, but you might feel some anxiety about it at the same time. That’s normal and understandable. It isn’t natural for us to be as isolated as many of us have been. You’ve likely changed and so have your friends as a result of what has happened over the last sixteen months. For many of those who were going through other transitions before the pandemic–i.e. moving to a new place, a new career, a new job, or any circumstances that have changed things for themselves socially and otherwise–those transitions might have felt artificially extended by the pandemic.
It’s okay to feel how you feel
Your feelings are valid. It’s important to understand the reason for your feelings. And don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel. Not even therapists like me. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out why you feel a certain way about your situation. Friends or a therapist may suggest what they think about what you’re dealing with, but only you can decide if that suggestion is valid.
Don’t be afraid to seek help. Whether it’s from talking to family or close friends, or seeking help from a professional, it is important to acknowledge your feelings, identify where they are coming from, and address them. It’s especially important if you know you are dealing with trauma, an area I also specialize in.
I am taking new clients at this time. At this point, my therapy sessions are still happening via telehealth. Even after I start seeing people in person, telehealth will continue to be a possibility, especially for those living in other parts of Wisconsin outside Madison. You can contact me via this online form.