Anxiety of the New Normal

Sitting in the parking lot of the gym I’ve come to love, I felt my chest tightening, my heart and thoughts racing. I couldn’t force my limbs to move. I remember looking at the front door urging my body to open the car door, swing my legs out and take the less than ten strides towards the entrance, but I was paralyzed. Anxiety took control and I was no longer in the drivers seat, but rather watching in horror from the backseat. I sat there wondering what was happening and why. Like many others, I was more than ready for things to get back to ‘normal’. In a unexpected twist, now that things are gradually opening, I found myself not so anxious to get out there, but I am anxious. I’m not ready to for things to go back to the way things were B.C.-19 (before COVID-19). Initially, I felt very conflicted with this anxiety, almost questioning my integrity-because I had been so anxious to return to life as we knew it. In conversations with several friends, I realized I was not the only one feeling this mixed emotive state.

The state I live in has begun a phased re-opening, but since the middle of March, my outtings have been primarily limited to necessary grocery runs. My routine B.C.-19 had me out of the house daily to work, run errands and of course going to the gym. The gym had become a sort of respite from the world and daily demands. I was able to let off some steam, clear my head and just have some “me time”. Never once, did I regret going there, even when I could have easily blown it off. I always left feeling proud of myself that I went and I felt I had a better capacity to deal with life’s troubles as they came at me. You might be longing to visit the place you often frequent for “me time”. For you it may not be the gym, it could be the nail salon or the lake or even dinner out with friends. You might just be looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’.

I have dabbled in meditation prior to the pandemic, however during it, I’ve been much more consistent. As I sat in the parking lot of the gym my body shaking, incapable of rationalizing with myself, I found the only thing I could do in my fight or flight scenario was breathe. I began to box breathe (breathe in for four seconds through your nose, hold it for four seconds, breathe out through your mouth for four seconds, hold for four seconds and repeat). My focus was solely on my breathing. Every time my thoughts wandered off to the hurried, irrational, and panicked, I gently thought to myself-“just breathe”. In doing this, I realized the anxiety I was feeling wasn’t just about setting foot into the gym, it was about my general unease of everything going back to the way it was B.C.-19. It was anxiety of adjusting to yet another “new” routine. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to work from home during the shutdowns, but for me this meant I’ll eventually have to get up earlier so that I can dress for work (ugh-ladies this also means wearing a bra consistently and potentially shoes that are adorable, but leave your feet aching). It means, I’ll have to make childcare arrangements (ie. $$$$). It also means going back to the run, run, run of life and trying to find the balance of work, parenting, household chores and trying to make allowances for “me time” in the midst of it all. It means rush hour, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.

Do you remember how you felt the first day of school or when you started a new job? Perhaps it was partial excitement with some anxiety thrown in there. Will they like me? Will I like them? Will I fit in? To me, it feels eerily similar to that. It’s like starting over, because most of us are. Whether it’s a return to a job or searching for a new one. For all of us, it’s a new beginning whatever that looks like for you. If you’re feeing the anxiety about adjusting to a new routine you’re not alone. I think some of my main anxieties about adapting to a new routine have to do with how hard it is to ensure that I make time for myself. There was a time when I would not have thought to consider making “me time” a priority, but I’ve come to realize that I’m only able to be and give the best to others if I am consistently replinishing myself. It dawned on me that I’ve been viewing a new routine as an obtacle and in many ways it will be, but it’s also a prime opportunity to line out what things are important and to ensure that those hold priority in the new routine. If it ever seems overwhelming, remember to breathe. Also, if you find you’re new routine isn’t serving you, you don’t need a pandemic to change it. Here’s to a fresh start!


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