For many of us, the pandemic and now the time we are moving into post-pandemic has created an unusual situation – life as an unbroken series of days that followed the same pattern.
I think of a client in her 30’s who saw me for a brush-up appointment this week after a long period of success in managing her anxiety after she completed therapy. She talked to me about the sameness of every day. She and her husband work from home while her mother comes over to care for their two young children. Day after day for going on a year. She knows she is very lucky – she and her husband have kept their jobs, and her mother had moved to live near them before the pandemic and so was able to provide childcare when daycare and preschool closed in March. Yet this post-pandemic anxiety is overwhelming her.
They have a large enough house to have a playroom for the kids and a home office both parents share, and they have money for food. Seeing the sad stories of people suffering losses of loved ones or financial crises makes her feel guilty for talking about the stress and anxiety of hitting the pandemic wall.
The novelty of life at home 24-7 wore off months ago and now they are all sick of the sameness of every day. They long for activities and relationships outside of their home, many of which are not options now. In our area outside of Washington, DC, life is nothing like it was before the pandemic. Local and state public health messages warn us to be vigilant. My client’s anxiety grew as she felt increasingly trapped at home. Prior to calling for an appointment, her treadmill broke, which she felt was the last thing helping her keep her sanity.
Does this sound familiar, either for you or for your clients?
Anxiety latches onto whatever is new and unusual in our lives, and for many people, ironically, the sameness of every day has led to this feeling of being trapped in our homes and in the routine of our lives. As always, anxiety wants us to focus intently on the topic it has chosen.
Getting back on track to living a good life even with anxiety starts with identifying that this is a problem with anxiety, and that is not easy with this topic! Remember that identifying this feeling of being trapped in our every-day lives as anxiety does not mean that this is an ideal situation, or negate the difficult realities of the current state of the world. It simply says that our reaction to the difficult situation is unnecessarily focused and preventing us from seeing other aspects of our lives.
We can help our clients use thought record sheets to notice negative, worried thought patterns and come up with better self-talk. We can also find action steps, even in a time of restrictions.
My client was surprised to consider that this was anxiety but quickly got back to using her thought record sheets about this new topic. She also shifted her work schedule by 30 minutes each day and started taking the kids outside on a daily walk at the end of her workday, often having them ride small scooters which the kids really enjoyed. Three days a week she got up early and took an online group yoga class. She signed up for a meal kit delivery service to get more varied meals. She and her husband also started planning a week at the beach this summer with the kids and her mom in a rental house. She is back to being able to recognize that life, even during this difficult time, has good things to enjoy.
For more resources on overcoming the anxiety of pandemic life and uncertainty, check out these links:
- Maintaining Calm in the Middle of a Global Crisis. Anxiety Training.
- The Most Likely Timeline for Life to Return to Normal. The Atlantic.