Handling your reopening anxiety

Re-opening challenges us all but 'Aspy' Ben Sorensen thinks we should go at our own speed.
Back board with text reading Welcome Back with an autumn leaf under the board

Lockdown is ending, it’s what we all wanted … but for some it presents a whole new range of anxiety.

It’s been a hard two years for everyone, particularly those with anxiety and depression, not to mention Autism. Mental health has been at an all-time low.

But the harsh reality both now and historically, is that mental health, as in all crises, is secondary to survival.

We have been asked to do so many things that aren’t comfortable, or that we don’t like. It’s been the first time many of us privileged folks have actually been told what to do for our own safety, and it’s been fair to say we sucked at it.

We learnt slowly, many of us kicking and screaming like it was ripping our soul out. Who would have thought self-preservation, perspective and caring for our community during a global pandemic would be so hard for some?

I digress. It’s been hard for us all, and just as we have adapted to the new normal of lockdown, we begin to open up again bringing new anxiety spikes for many.

Ch-ch-change

This has been the motto of the pandemic. So many changes so fast on so many different fronts. And, It’s hard to keep up.

As an autistic person, this has personally been my greatest challenge. Running scenarios in my head, planning the future, planning an outing, all done and redone a million times.

It’s exhausting.

What we do know is things will constantly change based on health advice, new research, politics (sadly), public health data and how messages are communicated.

I’ve found, as silly as it sounds, it helps to expect and plan for change.

I’ve been reading Taleb’s work, The Black Swan, which I’ve found quite unintentionally helpful during the pandemic. It outlines how we assume we know all possible outcomes, when in fact we don’t. What lies outside our assumed range of possible outcomes, is, a black swan.

So, as we open up and things start to change and change again, try to notice black swans, and see the beauty in them rolling with whatever comes your way.

Control of self, rather than control of the world can help to reduce the mental load.

Ben Sorenson. Image supplied.

Increased energy being social

After so long apart, ruminating on our own internal thoughts, couch time and watching Netflix can make the idea of being social again… draining.

From the last few lockdowns, I’ve found audiences can be ‘soul tired,’ wanting desperately to have their old life back, but feeling too exhausted to enjoy it as they think they once did.

It’s ok to start slow. Just because we can go out, doesn’t mean we should, and certainly doesn’t mean we need to overcompensate or make up for lost time.

Autistic and neuro diverse people are experts at this, knowing that every outing will take its toll, and will need recharge time to make it sustainable.

Try one-on-one catchups, shorter shows/events, and group activities to dip your proverbial toe in the social water again. There is no rush.

Many of us will also realise the energy, financial and time expense of our old lives, actually, wasn’t bringing as much joy as we first thought. It’s ok to change and grow and for different things to bring you joy – just do it consciously, and for you.

Read: Conquering fear in your reopening strategy

Aggressive privileged people

This category had been a problem well before the pandemic, however the past two years appear to have magnified those personalities creating an even bigger problem than usual. Toxic behaviour, in particular toxic masculinity, isn’t just a problem for women but for everyone.

There is growing anxiety over the behaviour of these people believing the health orders do not apply to them and using aggression to bully their way into venues that are at capacity. Pushing themselves into a space unvaccinated or going out while experiencing symptoms, or even at its most basic, not getting tested whilst symptomatic.

The health orders apply to everyone and are for everyone’s safety – no matter what you ‘believe.’

It’s also good to note, with or without health orders, a venue or business is 100% in their right not to allow you entry or serve you. So, the short answer is, my business my rules, so don’t be a d**k.

The takeaway

It’s okay to take it slow. It’s okay to say no to events and social time. It’s okay to have your own logical science backed rules to keep you safer. It’s okay to only see your fully vaccinated friends (reason, season, lifetime). It’s okay to sleep more. It’s okay to have alone time, and it’s okay to still sit on the couch and watch Netflix, and most of all, it’s okay to take your time to adjust to opening up to the world and letting it in.

We all have a different speed and path that is right for us, and there will be more black swans to deal with. Many of us have sacrificed or lost so much, and as we venture out, we do not know the extent of another’s burden.

So, take it at your pace, with kindness and respect for yourself and others so we can enjoy life in whatever form we can as a community… together.

It is time to ‘get on the beers’ … but only, when you’re ready.

Ben Sorensen is a Voice Artist, Writer, Producer, Presenter & Event Host. He hosted one of Australia’s most popular syndicated radio shows on over 140 stations, and his Podcast Real Country is broadcast in over 100 countries. Ben’s broadcast credits include host roles on MTV, Nine Network, Southern Cross Ten, WIN Television, and many others.

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