• Allie Buxton

Re-opening Anxiety: 5 Ways to De-stress in a Changing World

It’s been a wild 6 months, no matter where in the world you live. We may joke about the cruel mistress that has been 2020 with a multitude of memes but we’ve all been experiencing a bit more stress than usual. Here are five ways to cope with the anxiety of re-opening.

As things start to open up during the pandemic, we heave a sigh of relief at the return to normal. Except… it isn’t normal, is it? On a global scale, we’ve had a shake-up, for better and for worse. During the height of COVID restrictions simple tasks, such as grocery shopping, were more stressful than ever. We were told this stress was OK; our employers, schools, even that one company we bought something from in 2016, told us to be kind to ourselves.

Now, as things start to reopen and we return to our usual programming, we face new challenges, some of which may be even more stress-inducing. It's difficult to keep track of rapidly changing public health measures, physical changes to offices, businesses, etc. seem hostile, and some folks have been left to sort out the expectation to return to work without proper supports (e.g. access to childcare, PPE, etc.)

It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that things aren’t normal and won’t be for a while. And while we are adaptable, resilient beings, these uncertainties influence our stress levels and our overall health and wellness. This thought may seem stressful in itself but there are actions we can take to cope with these changes.

Here are 5 ways you can relax and reduce your stress during reopening:

1. Keep Building Community

In some ways, the pandemic brought us closer together around a common challenge. We couldn't be physically close to people so we made a greater effort to connect: we checked in on our neighbours, we said 'Hi' to people on the sidewalk as we detoured onto lawns and roads to maintain six-feet, we Skyped, texted, and sent letters to those we'd lost touch with.

As we start to get busy again, remember to keep connecting and building your community. Research supports that positive, high-quality social connections enhance our resilience to stress and help maintain physical and mental health. When we connect with others, we experience feelings of support, empathy, and companionship. Your community is who you can rely on when you need a hand. These past 6-months are evidence of what we can do when we come together to support one another.

2. Ease In

It may be tempting to go out to all the places and see all the people you have missed. This feeling, paired with new procedures in public environments, can lead to overstimulation and heightened feelings of stress and anxiety. Don't be afraid to ease back into your routine, say 'no' when you need to, and take breaks to disconnect.

3. Change your Environment

Our physical environments influence our physical and mental state. When you start feeling stressed or anxious, check-in with yourself and your environment and make changes as necessary. If you cannot physically change your environment, try to change your perception of it. Take 5 minutes to be mindful; mentally remove yourself from where you are and focus on your breathing. Try listening to calming, soothing music to help you get there.

4. Incorporate Movement

Movement can mitigate some of the negative effects of stress. Physical activity both reduces the level of active stress hormones in our body and distracts our focus from our stressors. Gyms and studios may not be open yet but movement extends past aerobic activity. Use this as an opportunity to explore parks and conservation sites in your area, try forest bathing, or dance around your kitchen. Choose any kind of movement or activity you like and try to do it daily.

5. Sleep Well

Sleep is vital in our health and wellbeing. The connection between stress and sleep is two-fold: stress inhibits our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, and lack of sleep heightens feelings of stress and anxiety.

A good night's sleep starts with good sleep habits: stick to a nightly schedule, turn off electronics at least an hour before bed, keep your bedroom clean, cool, and dark. Engaging in relaxing activities, such as journaling, meditation, or listening to a sleep playlist, can help calm our minds and improve our sleep and stress levels.

How are you coping with change? Let us know - we'd love to connect!


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