After more than one year, navigating the stress that covid fatigue has brought us, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet this light can blind us. That’s called reentry anxiety—the stress of coming back to everyday life.
Expats had to deal with it like everybody else, adding the fact that we also faced family and/or partnership separation, isolation and in some cases even pausing their adaptation process.
Now it’s time to deal with the consequences of covid fatigue and face reentry anxiety. This phase has its challenges as we re-enter society, reunite with family and friends outside a screen, and deal and integrate our new post-lockdown selves into the “new normal.”
Keep reading to find out what is covid fatigue and reentry anxiety, what we have discovered in these +- 18 months and how to cope with all this while avoiding all the toxic positivity surrounding it!
Check out my Youtube video about this subject here.
What is Covid Fatigue?
𝗜𝘀 𝗶𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗲𝘅𝗵𝗮𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗿𝘂𝘀? Yes, that too. But not only.
We are all tired of Covid, Pandemic, Lockdown. Not only to hear about it but also to have experienced it.
Now that we are trying to live our lives as “normal” as we can, the effects kick in on our mental health.
We dealt with collective stress, and although we were isolated and dealing with our problems, there was a sense of community and “we are all in these together.”
However, as we approach the “new normal,” whatever that is, this “we are all in these together” is vanishing. Now, most of us are dealing with it the best we can.
Covid Fatigue is a set of emotions including boredom, loneliness, sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt and resentment; all brought on by the constant exposure to stress and uncertainty, plus the loss of activities and social relations produced by pandemic restrictions.
Why are we experiencing Covid Fatigue?
– We were facing constant stress and danger and were bombarded with news, rumors, lies and uncertainty
– Many of us dealt with the disease, directly or indirectly
– Some of us even lose someone we loved and deal with those consequences and “incomplete” grief
– Quarantine, lockdown, isolation, lack of social contact
– Working from home with its relational consequences (partnership, kids)
– Families, couples, friendships are long-term separated, and expats used to visit their loved ones back home at least once a year had to face this other form of isolation
– There is the concept of zoom fatigue: we celebrated, grieved, arrange bureaucracy, everything virtually, and that is leading to preferring not seeing anyone instead of “only a screen”
Bear in mind: 1 of 3 people are dealing right now or will be short term with mental health issues related to covid: anxiety, depression, and even PTSD symptoms.
What is reentry anxiety?
There is one significant consequence of covid fatigue. That consequence is reentry anxiety. We are re-entering normality, the everyday life that we knew before a pandemic.
But life has changed. We have changed. And we are worn out.
We are not maybe armed or equipped to face the challenges that are coming, adaptation to new normal, resuming the things that we did before continuing the routine that we had before the pandemic.
Coming back to work.
The kids are coming back to school or kindergarten.
We see our family again.
We are traveling again.
Those things per se mean stress. But now, with all we are dealing with, it can mean Mount Everest.
How do we know if we are dealing with covid fatigue and reentry anxiety?
Some of the typical signs of fatigue and anxiety are:
– repetitive thoughts and rumination
– shame and guilt
– troubles focusing and concentrating, even on “easy tasks”
– hopelessness and helplessness
– irritability, anger, feeling “on edge”
– panic attacks
– social awkwardness
– mood swings
– troubles sleeping
– excessive or no appetite
– disconnection from friends and family
– not wanting to do things you previously enjoyed doing.
How do we face covid fatigue and reentry anxiety?
1.- Express how you are feeling
Express it to your partner, your family, your mental health professional, your community. Search for someone with whom you can be yourself and express whatever you’re feeling.
It is very, very common to feel stress, anxiety, frustration. Don’t stay with it. It perpetuates it, making it bigger and stronger. By letting it out, you are weakening these bad thoughts or negative emotions.
2.- Protect yourself from toxic positivity
It is necessary to look at the bright side and to focus your energy on the good things.
But if you are feeling bad, you’re feeling bad. So don’t let yourself or others force positivity on you.
Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. And if someone is trying to force you into that positive state without asking you how you are doing, try to avoid that person or encourage empathy.
3.- Extend a helping hand to the ones around you
Whatever it is that can get you out of your head and out of the house, and also paying forward.
Acts of kindness are very generous but are also selfish because it helps you feel better.
It releases dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and mood regulators that give you happiness and excitement and soothing.
4.- Stay connected with the ones you love
With the people that make you feel good, heard and comforted. Those people are essential for you right now.
Stay connected. Take the initiative and connect with the people you love and who make you happy.
5.- Remember, everyone is struggling
That means everyone deals with problems in a different way.
Before getting angry with someone because the reaction was not what you expected, bear in mind that maybe this person is also dealing with much stress. So be compassionate towards yourself and towards others.
6.- Take it one step at a time.
If you’re feeling that to be outside, to meet many people is too much for you and take a step back, collect your thoughts, go inside yourself and ask yourself:
-what do I need right now?
-what do I want right now?
-what is best for me right now?
Don’t feel forced to be normal again, like everybody else, all at your pace. Everyone has different speeds to adapt to normality. You respect yours.
If you are struggling with fatigue or reentry anxiety, you are by no means alone. As an online psychologist specialized in expat women living abroad, I can help you work through these struggles and identify productive ways to manage this significant transition and journey.
You are not alone in this, never forget it!
Take the reins now and live a fulfilled and happy international life, wherever you are, wherever you are heading!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.