Re-entry anxiety is now quite common as we all try to figure out what feels safe as we go back out into the world more and more. How can you know what is safe as our world keeps opening up more in this COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve had a year of so many previously unheard of precautions… social distancing, “masking up,” hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol, wiping down groceries…
Now what? What is safe now?
Just as it was hard to decide which precautions to take, it’s now hard to decide which precautions we can let go of and when. Nobody can guarantee us 100% safety. We are stuck with more uncertainty, just a different flavor.
CLICK HERE to read more about tolerating uncertainty as things re-opening again.
What were your COVID “rules”?
We got guidelines from various governmental agencies, local mandates and from businesses enacting their own rules. Time to look at what rules YOU created or followed during the height of the pandemic and figure out how to move forward.
What rules did you have regarding things like these?
- Mask wearing
- Social distancing
- Washing hands
- Hand sanitizer
- Grocery shopping
- Wiping down groceries or mail or deliveries
- Eating in restaurants
- Eating food you didn’t prepare yourself
- Glove use
- Surface disinfecting
- Decontamination procedures when anyone enters your home
- Washing clothes that were worn outside the house
- Keeping track of who touched what
- Allowable places to go (stores, office, public places, others’ homes….)
How will you figure out what to keep doing or stop doing? What is safe?
First, do your best to consult only reputable sources. Seek out current and reputable guidelines and recommendations. CDC recommendations have changed significantly in April and May 2021, and more specific than in the past.
More importantly, be willing to really question yourself if you feel you need to exceed public health recommendations. Ask yourself WHY exceeding recommendations is necessary.
If you feel you want to exceed recommendations, are you basing your decision on facts and rational thinking, or on feelings (fear, worry)?
Identify the pros and cons of exceeding recommendations. Do this in writing to keep it logical and rational. There are some real downsides to exceeding CDC recommendations. Be aware that avoidance perpetuates and maintains fear and anxiety.
Time for a Risk Assessment
We are still faced with uncertainty so we need to accept that there are no clear-cut answers. Life itself comes with uncertainty.
The goal is to use rational thinking instead of fear, anxiety, or ”what ifs” when determining how to loosen up your rules/precautions.
Rational thinking recognizes there never is and never was any 100% guarantee of being safe. We take a risk every time we wake up and walk around or get in a car, but we don’t focus all of our attention on those risks.
Rational thinking aims to assess your current REALISTIC risk.
Probable vs Possible: Rational thinking asks what are the realistic risks or likelihood of getting COVID or suffering an extreme case (even death). Ask not if it is POSSIBLE (anything is possible) but how PROBABLE is it – at this stage of the pandemic.
Flexible vs. all or nothing thinking: Rational thinking allows for flexible decisions based on variable situations. You don’t have to decide to never, ever wear a mask again. You can decide not to wear a mask in small groups but to wear one in large groups. You can decide to wear one indoors but not outdoors. You can decide to wear one if someone near you has actual symptoms.
Tip Toe: Rational thinking takes one step at a time. Read this article for ideas on how to Tip Toe Back Out into the World.
Likelihood: Rational thinking considers the LIKELIHOOD and looks at reliable statistics and data (not feelings) to assess likelihood. You might look at factors such as:
- Current local COVID cases
- Percentage of local cases compared to local population
- Your current vaccination status
- Your current immune system status
- Your current antibody status, measured by tests not by guessing
- Same for members of your household
- Your social patterns and habits
- Community vaccination status
- Size of groups or others you are interacting with
To avoid prolonging the anxiety and loss of freedom caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, make your own plan for tip-toeing out into the world – and make it based on trusted sources and rational thinking instead of based on feelings, fears or anxiety.