by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
Anxiety, Stress, and “Going Out” Again…Life Through a Pandemic
“I’m glad the pandemic has ended. Why do I feel so uncomfortable?”
Do you remember a year-and-a-half ago when the Coronavirus pandemic first hit? I know, feels like a lifetime ago. Do you remember how hard it was to get used to the “new normal?” Facemasks, physical distancing, lockdowns, restrictions, Zoom meetings, and “visiting” elderly parents and friends by looking and waving through windows. We all had our reactions to the changes: some raged against the restrictions; others felt safe and protected; some felt a deep, abiding panic over the thought of catching the virus; others felt grief over losing loved ones; still others didn’t seem to feel anything, instead experiencing something like a zombie state.
Many of us eventually found a place of acceptance, coming to terms with “life as it is” and made the best of it even if we didn’t like it. The ability to flex and adapt to change is an important part of being human because, quite frankly, change is the only constant in life! And guess what? Change is here again! Vaccinations are rising. Restrictions are lifting. Freedoms are returning. Exciting, right?
Then, why are we anxious again?
We’re anxious about going into a store without a mask; anxious about giving someone a hug; anxious about returning to the workplace; and, anxious about being in a crowd. We look askance at people, suspicious for no apparent reason…except that we’ve been trained for a year-and-a-half that close proximity to people is a threat to our lives!
Part of the wonder of being human is that your body is trainable. Sometimes you do this willfully – like training for a race, choosing to lose weight, or studying to launch into a new profession. Other times, your body is trained by greater cultural forces going on around you. This is especially true when it comes to your body’s “threat response system.” Many threats you face are real and an active threat response system literally saves you from harm and death. Other times, your brain’s threat response is provoked by memory and learned internal and external cues (does anyone remember Pavlov’s dog?). A threat may no longer exist, yet your body responds as if it does.
Changes of any kind often provoke our learned bodily responses. We experience this as discomfort, ranging from mild irritation, anxiety, and grief to unexpectedly intense rage, panic, and despair. The intensity of the reaction is often tied to trauma we experienced in past changes.
So what’s an anxious person to do?
I encourage you first and foremost to give yourself (and those around you) room to adjust to the change. This means making room for the discomfort. Second, remind yourself it’s simply part of being human and even blessing it as a wonderful part of being human! Finally, ground your choices and actions in who you want to be rather than in your uncomfortable emotions and automatic thoughts. If you want to be a hugger, start hugging people again (ask permission first to make room for others’ discomfort). If you want to go into a store without a mask, go into a store without a mask (respecting the proprietor’s wishes). As you practice these and other valued actions, your wonderfully designed body will adapt to the next “new normal”.
Consider Online Therapy in Oregon for Christian Counseling
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again, in spite of this global pandemic. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!