CommunityHealthMindfulnessHow to deal with ‘back to normal’ anxiety

The majority of us have experienced tremendous changes to our lives due the spread of Covid-19 all over the world. We have been forced to lock ourselves in at home and to manage our lives with limited access to the outside world. After three months of this, the UAE is reducing restrictions on movement. But now many people are feeling anxious and distressed at the idea of going back to work and resuming their pre-Covid...
Reem Shaheen Reem ShaheenJuly 1, 20208 min
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The majority of us have experienced tremendous changes to our lives due the spread of Covid-19 all over the world. We have been forced to lock ourselves in at home and to manage our lives with limited access to the outside world. After three months of this, the UAE is reducing restrictions on movement. But now many people are feeling anxious and distressed at the idea of going back to work and resuming their pre-Covid lives.

Some of these fears are related to the virus, while others are to do with the life to which we are returning. Here’s why you may be feeling unsettled and what to do about it.

Virus-related anxiety

This is simply related to the still-present risk of contracting Covid-19. Although the number of infections went down significantly in the UAE during the lockdown, the virus is still out there and some are still fearful of catching it, particularly people who use public transport or whose jobs require frequent contact with others. Then there are increasing concerns over countries experiencing a second wave of infection

Still feeling helpless

Although numbers are decreasing in the UAE, the number of infections worldwide is still rising. No one knows when we may be able to return to a life that doesn’t entail wearing masks, socially distancing and not traveling. This is prolonging the feelings of helplessness and being out of control. Many of us are feeling vulnerable and exposed, which is why we still feel the need to withdraw and avoid other people.  

Inability to plan

Summer is here and many families are unable to plan their vacations or predict when they are going to go back to visit family in their home countries. This inability to predict the future triggers feelings of loss of control. 

More change

Change traditionally evokes a sense of loss, prompting a sense of sadness and even grief. Our lives have changed drastically over the last three months. We’ve had to learn to work, study, exercise and socialize within the confines of our homes – a huge adjustment for most of us. Creating that new structure has taken tremendous effort and as we move toward yet another change, those feelings may well rise to the surface again. Although we are trying to pick up our old lives, it still means having to embrace many changes, from having to wear masks at work to maintaining social distance from other people.

Change related to our family lives

Many individuals are feeling guilty about leaving their families again after spending quality with them. There is an overall resentment, especially among those who were working long hours before the pandemic descended. The time spent in lockdown has helped them realize that perhaps their job does not give them the right work-life balance. The fear of missing out on more time with children and of going back to the old routine is stirring those feelings of anger. 

Survival guilt

Although the death toll of the pandemic has not reached the levels that were forecast, the financial impact is tremendous. Many people are going back to work to find colleagues are missing because they have been made redundant, leading them to feel grateful that they still have a job and guilty about it all at the same time. They will be asking themselves why they survived but their friend didn’t.

Instead of viewing this time as going back to normal life, it’s more helpful to reframe it as a different phase of the pandemic. Going back to work now is not the same as returning from a vacation. We are going back to the office after three months at home and we need to use the same coping strategies in this phase that we used during lockdown. In particular, that means showing  kindness and empathy towards ourselves and others. 

And if we’re struggling or can’t quite drum up the same enthusiasm and energy as before, we need to forgive ourselves for that, too. 

Reem Shaheen

Reem Shaheen

Reem Shaheen is a licensed, US-trained counseling psychologist with 12 years of experience working across three countries. Reem views herself as an eclectic psychotherapist, drawing heavily on psychodynamic theories combined with existential and humanistic approaches. She empowers individuals to rewrite their story and overcome their past struggles essential to reach higher levels of inner peace and emotional growth.

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