Transitions bring an opportunity for anxiety because by definition they involve moving to something new. The anxiety triggers of transitions can be especially difficult post-pandemic. But even outside of this time, think about clients who regularly struggle with the “Sunday scarries.” Anxiety grows when we say “Oh no, tomorrow is Monday!” Sure, it’s great when that anxiety reminds us to get our clothes laid out and our alarm set to wake up on time for work or school, but for people who have intense anticipatory anxiety, it can make them miserable on Sunday.
Most of us are in a transition period right now as more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus and more activities re-open after a long year in our homes. For our anxious clients, though, these once-routine activities can become huge triggers for anxiety. I think for all of us, it’s a good opportunity to stop and consider, what do we value?
Once I had my vaccinations, the answer was clear – I value health and exercise, and so my first transition saw me returning to my local gym. There were only 60 people at a time allowed by local law. The gym had added a real-time numbers tracker to their website, but the reality is that in my area outside of Washington DC most people are still not ready to go back to the gym, so the numbers were always more like 15 people at any given time. Nothing close to the maximum.
The day I returned to the gym I checked in with myself and noticed I felt excited. I got there and greeted the person checking people in, only to realize I had carefully brought my library card instead of my gym pass. It was a funny moment, and the front desk worker and I had a little laugh while she manually signed me in. It was only when I got home that I realized that I had my gym pass on my key chain with me the entire time. What does that all mean? It all felt new to my brain, and I wasn’t doing things in a routine, calm way, and wasn’t thinking things through clearly either. The key to this is that I did it. I went, I got checked in, and I stayed and did a workout. The next day I went back and it’s been part of my routine ever since. Make sure to identify anxiety as you and your clients re-enter your normal activities, and give yourself and your clients credit for taking small steps and then re-evaluating.
Remind yourself and your client of all the times we have had normal transitions, such as aging up in school or the beginning or end of a vacation and handled it fine. These can be exciting times, and times of growth. So, too, is this post-pandemic time, if we are able to recognize anxiety, give it space, and also make a plan to return to visiting with the people, participating in the activities and enjoying the places we love and missed this long year.
See Part 1 of 2 here: