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I Have to go Outside Again? The Impacts of Re-Entry Anxiety

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

On March 11, 2020, Covid-19 was officially declared to be a pandemic and all at once the world seemed to stand still.  Countries locked down, wedding plans changed, families forced to grieve the loss of loved ones.  We’ve lost jobs, connection, and precious time.  Up until very recently so much of the conversation around Covid-19 has been about how I can make it through lockdown, how can I stay safe, when will I be able to see my family again, will I keep my job, what will my child’s schooling look like?  For months, the focus has been about managing anxiety, depression, grief, and disappointment regarding what this pandemic has taken.  Now the conversation seems to be changing.  With this new season, as we move into spring, I’ve noticed some new questions and fears arising among those I work with.  Now, the anxiety has shifted from “How will I survive lock-down?” to “How will I survive going back to my normal life?”. 

           With the promise of vaccinations and reduced rates there is an increase in hope that we will eventually see the end of this devastating pandemic, but with this hope comes concern.  Re-entry anxiety is a very real fear as we move closer to the end of lock-down.  While the pandemic is by no means over, we have been seeing progress, after all about 15% of IL has been fully vaccinated[i]. 

This being said, there is still a lot of conflicting information that we are seeing every day.  Behavioral restrictions are still encouraged, face masks should still be worn, and social distancing needs to be respected.  With all of this conflicting information it’s understandable why anxiety regarding entering back into “the normal” day-to-day exists.  A very real threat remains present, and that threat demands respect.  So, while things are getting safer, things are still not safe.  When we hear employers talk about going back into the office, loved ones still planning wedding dates in the near future, and family wanting to stop by for a visit without a mask, how can we not feel anxious?  Uncertainty still looms when we are certain life will resume.  Practicing anxiety reduce strategies such as deep breathing, thought stopping, and mindfulness can all be helpful tools when navigating these anxieties. 

Not only are we now wondering what is safe and what’s not, there is a recognition that we will soon be asked to, once again, adapt.  If there is one thing humans as a species are good at it’s adaptation.  We have concurred every problem we have been faced, and while that skill is not easy or often desired it is a skill none the less.  We created a new social life around Zoom calls and have utilized coping skills we never thought we would (the amount of people I know who make candles and cross-stitch now is significant).  We have almost forgotten how to act like a person in person, and the thought of sitting in a restaurant across from another is now distressing.   

When preparing for re-entry try and go slow.  Reestablish some structure bit by bit, explore what it would feel like to start by going into the office only once or twice a week if possible.  Maybe start practicing waking up at the time you would if you were going into the office.  Create a routine that allows you to start gently transitioning back into a “normal day” so that the shift does not feel so abrupt. 

Even if we are moving in a promising direction, please remember that safety still comes first.  Continue to practice social distancing, wearing a facemask, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.  Sometimes additional support can be helpful in navigating anxieties and sadness as well.  If you feel that you would like to engage with someone in a safe and supportive environment to process past or present concerns, reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling in Chicago.  You can reach out to us online at, or by calling us at (312) 702-5512 to set up an appointment. 

[i] COVID-19 vaccine Administration data. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2021, from

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