June 9, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Arunesh K. Mishra, M.D. contributes to topics such as Behavioral Health.
By: Larry Ginsberg
I’m getting used to being quarantined, and now I’m feeling stressed about going out again.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the term homebody was a quaint way of saying someone preferred the comforts of quiet evenings at home rather than being out and about. Since the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, many of us have become full-time homebodies.
According to Arunesh Mishra, M.D., “Our home represents a place of safety, security and emotional respite from the stress of our daily lives.” He continues, “Over the extended period of quarantine, people may have adjusted to the stress of the pandemic and are now finding comfort in feeling safe from exposure to the virus by being home. What in the early weeks of quarantine may have been challenging is now a ‘new normal’ and people are finding routines at home.”
This same pattern is sometimes seen in prisoners who may have found comfort in the familiarity of their cells over time and feel anxious at the prospect of freedom and uncertainty of being released back to a society. Many of us may have settled into a comfort zone with quarantine that could present challenges and anxiety as we begin to slowly return to an outside world that will be very different than we knew.
Why being quarantined may now feel more comfortable:
- We have adjusted – Being under quarantine at first coincided with the surge of the pandemic and daily news of growing cases and deaths. As the “curve has flattened” we have seen the benefits of quarantine and have gotten used to it.
- We know what to expect – Being home 24/7 may be boring and we may lose track of what day it is, but we do now know what to expect every day and there are mostly no surprises.
- We feel safe – We have seen that quarantine may not be exciting, but it does work. We stay indoors with no contact with anyone else, and we are in a safe bubble where we have little or no known risk of contracting the virus.
Why going out again may make us feel anxious:
- Is it truly safe? Right now, the safest place we know may feel like our home, and as businesses begin to open we may be feeling “Is it too soon?”. As we watch the news we are seeing many different forms of re-opening. The lack of a consistent and proven approach may leave us feeling stressed about how safe it really is.
- I can’t control everything around me – This can be a stressful part of coming out of quarantine. The concept of social distancing involves a very high level of self-enforcement, awareness, and trust with complete strangers. If you have been out at all lately, different people may have a different interpretation of what six feet looks like.
- Which information can I trust? – There are so many sources of news and information that it is difficult to know which information to truly trust, especially when the safety of yourself and your family is at stake.
What can I do when getting ready to return to a “new normal”
Dr. Mishra noted, “As businesses begin to open most people will face a new phase of anxiety, stress and fear about being out in public places. I recommend being aware of your stress level and using coping skills like deep breathing exercises to manage anxiety. You should also talk openly about your concerns and fears. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily functions or causing other physical or emotional symptoms it may be time to talk to someone or seek care.”
Some tips for managing stress and anxiety as we move out of quarantine:
- Stress can be useful – A certain level of stress is normal, and just like someone may feel some stress before speaking in front of a group, there will be a normal level of stress associated with returning to regular activities.
- Have a plan – Visualizing stressful situations beforehand can be helpful to anticipate how you may feel and react. Create a plan for going out that will make you comfortable and stick to the plan.
- Be aware of how you are feeling – Feeling some level of stress or anxiety as we begin to venture out will be normal for a short period. If this interrupts sleep, appetite or daily activities, it may be a sign of something more serious and time to talk to someone.
- Don’t delay routine well care visits with your primary care physician – Taking care of all your health needs is important for your overall wellness, so don’t forget to schedule routine visits with your physician.
If stressful quarantine has now become comfortable quarantine you have done great job of managing anxiety and using coping skills to avoid depression. The next step forward may be an uncomfortable one, the step into a restaurant or retail store again.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Why Routines are Important to Mental Health
- Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired? Try These 3 Things
- How to Manage Anxiety around Coronavirus
- Helping a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health or Addiction Issues
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.