Why Do I Feel So Anxious About Isolation Ending?

The onset of the global coronavirus pandemic has been unsettling. We’ve been shut out, shut down and basically segregated to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.

But after much reflection, I’ve come to realise that I’ve relished the peace and quiet that isolation has brought. In fact, not only have I relished in this “universal reset”, but I’ve also grown dramatically as a person.

Seven weeks ago, our office was sent home with our laptops, told that we would be working from home indefinitely. I remember feeling worried about the effects that prolonged isolation would have on my mental health and even penned a lengthy Facebook post about it.

I was inundated with messages from others who felt the same — and also messages of support that I wasn’t going to be alone.

Now, fast-track to the end of April and my life looks very different.

In just seven weeks, I have moved house, strengthened my mental health, entered into a new relationship and physically changed my body.

I’ve been exercising every day in a makeshift gym on my balcony and have made sure to keep in regular contact with my friends and family via Zoom, FaceTime and Skype. Even my side hustle job as a psychic medium is booming.

So, why do I feel so anxious about going back into the ‘real world’ when I’m possibly at my best?

As much as I want the world to be free of the coronavirus, I have mixed feelings about shifting back to our usual reality.

I’m feeling anxious about the pressure to meet social expectations and even the fear of missing out when I see friends and family on social media savouring their newfound freedom.

I asked psychotherapist Natajsa Wagner to give me some insight into why I might be feeling this way.

“It’s interesting isn’t it, how quickly we can adapt to our circumstances,” she told me. “It’s normal and natural to feel a level of anxiety, some uncertainty and maybe a little fearful what the new world looks like moving forward.”

“I think this global event has been a catalyst for many of us to question what is normal, as well as how we currently ‘do’ life. This enforced isolation or ‘spiritual retreat’ as I call it has brought up questions of ‘Are we happy living life as we do?’, ‘Is the way I live my life in alignment with who I am and my values?'”.

According to Wagner, for most people, this type of reflection doesn’t usually occur unless they are doing some major inner or personal work or have space and time to reflect.

“Like all major life transitions, COVID-19 has been a life transition for us all and we have had to navigate relatively quickly.”

I explained to her that during a video call with my immediate team yesterday, we were all feeling quite used to the “new normal”, however, she expressed that we haven’t yet reached the peak of the “new normal” just yet.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty around what that looks like for each of us personally, in our workplaces, community, businesses and globally,” she said.

“If I had to make a hypothesis I would probably say you are likely anxious about the uncertainty of the future and what it looks like. Human beings like a level of certainty for safety and security but also need a bit of uncertainty for fun and excitement.”

Wagner also added that it was important to look at what is exciting about the changes that are coming.

“We also get to play a part in creating what that looks like for us. We need to remember that we are empowered to create the kind of life that we want to. What do you want it to look like? Can you tap into your excitement around this as well, not just your anxiety?”

Ah! Perspective.

Concluding our chat, Wagner stated that it was important to also recognise that most of us have never been through anything like this in our lifetime.

It is new and uncertain!” she said. “The reality is that we won’t be going back to what we once knew as normal. Life, as we know it, has shifted and changed, and through this experience, we won’t actually ever be the same again — in fact, who you are yesterday is not who you are today. We are constantly changing! Our ability to be able to overcome the challenges we face is often about tolerating our distress and working with our anxiety and uncertainty!”

And she is right.

Who I was seven weeks ago, is not who I am today, and when the time comes to step back out into the real world, I’ll be ready.

Natajsa Wagner is a clinical psychotherapist based in Brisbane, QLD. She combines Gestalt Psychotherapy, self-awareness and neuroscience to focus on creating positive, sustainable change & transformation, working with individuals, couples, and groups. You can find out more here.

The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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