Dr. Casey Wolfington: Coping With Reentry Anxiety
This article also appeared in the VailDaily on May 18, 2021.
It has been more than 13 months since Eagle County‘s first confirmed case of COVID-19. This week, current public health orders will expire, and we will move into a much less restrictive environment for the first time in more than a year.
For some, this may be a welcome change that allows greater connection to friends, family, and familiar routines. For some, this shift may be met with anxiety and trepidation. Most of us will experience this entire spectrum of emotions, which may feel conflicting and confusing at times.
Reentry anxiety is quite common, and the vast majority of the population has experienced a version of this anxiety at some point in our lives. This experience could be in the form of returning to school following an extended break or returning to work following a vacation or period of leave.
Many teachers and clinicians use the term “Sunday Scaries” to refer to the anxiety that is often felt on Sunday in anticipation of returning to school on Monday. Reentry anxiety tends to occur when we move from a state of comfort and control into a state with less predictability and control.
Anxiety is designed to protect us. Evolutionarily, it makes sense that we would be hesitant to leave a place of safety. However, it is important to remember that circumstances have changed.
Since the vaccine rolled out in December, more than 60 percent of our population will likely have received the COVID-19 vaccination by Memorial Day weekend. Community members that are 50 years of age or older have been vaccinated at 87 percent, with people 70 and older at 90 percent. This data is positive and hopeful. With every vaccination given, our community does get safer.
However, reentry anxiety typically relies on old data that reinforce fear. Here are a few tips on how to manage reentry anxiety:
Remind yourself that our current circumstances may not be the data that your anxiety is relying on.
As we have learned during the past year, things can change. Rather than viewing things as definite and engaging in black/white thinking, encourage yourself to be flexible. When you expect change, you can shift something unpredictable to a bit more predictable.
Worry With Purpose
Although anxiety can have a negative impact on us, it can also help us identify creative and resourceful solutions to problems. If you find yourself worrying, challenge yourself to identify ways to address a specific aspect of your worry.
Connect With Others
Anxiety thrives in isolation. Social connection is one of the most important factors of resilience.
We will all play a role in ensuring a supportive environment for our fellow community members this summer. Whether we approach this with excitement or some trepidation, we should all approach one another with respect, compassion, and a little grace as we may be in different places with our approach to reentry.
If you are experiencing a high level of anxiety, worry, or concern, please do not hesitate to visit eaglevalleybh.org. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health’s therapist finder allows you to search providers by specialty and to apply for the Olivia’s Fund scholarship if finances are a barrier.
Dr. Casey Wolfington is a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. Dr. Wolfington has been embedded within Vail Health’s COVID-19 Response Team since January 2020.