Are you ready for re-entry? The world is starting to open up again. And… it can be unsettling for many people.
Life transitions tend to stir up the debris that’s been sitting dormant within. You can know it’s getting stirred up by the sensations of anxiety you’re feeling. Transitions and change can bring feelings of unease and fear.
Right now we’re all in a monumental collective life transition.
It is a time of heightened emotion, for all of us. There’s a tension in the air. It’s quite palpable.
Combine that transition anxiety with the fact that our stress response system has been highly activated for a year now and you’ve got a state of overwhelm that can paralyze you. The prospect of re-entry makes it difficult to feel safe. Feeling calm feels impossible. There’s a general sense of unease and the uncertainty we’ve all been feeling for a while has become more nuanced.
The new normal meant moving through life with a sense of dread and impending doom. We have been anticipating a real threat. This way of living wreaks havoc on the nervous system and on well-being. It’s all been just too much.
For a year we’ve been operating on overdrive. It’s been difficult to calm down. Our survival response system that has kept us alive for millennia is now working against us. The nervous system is now locked in position and keeping us overwhelmed.
That’s the problem. We get stuck and can’t switch gears. We’re stuck in overdrive and we’re releasing copious amounts of stress hormones. We’re living with tension and tightness. Maybe you can feel it in your jaw or your shoulders.
“Hey, the world is becoming safe again. Re-entry is possible! Come on out and live your best life”
The threat of covid might be in the beginning stages of dwindling down but it left an imprint on your nervous system. It becomes a problem when you can’t get yourself out of this overwhelmed state.
So now the vaccines are rolling out and people are venturing out in the world again. Soon we can engage in all of the activities that we’ve desperately missed for a year. We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Except that the inner alarm won’t quiet down.
Of course you want to go out with your friends and feel free. You want to experience pleasure again and meet new people.
So why is this stressful feeling hitching a ride to your re-entry good times?
Your nervous system activation has been on high alert and it’s keeping you stuck in the expectation of harm coming your way. The idea of engaging with the world again can bring a pretty big stress response in the body. Again you’re living in an overwhelmed state. The body has not caught up yet.
You’re moving through your life as though you’re about to be attacked. You’re danger mapping.
Our mind-body connection is sensitive to imagined threat just as much as to real threat. In fact, the body doesn’t distinguish between what’s happening in the imagination from what’s happening in real life. Your body will respond to the threat you’re conjuring up in your imagination as though it’s really happening.
So how do we move out of the stress response?
The easiest place to start is by reorienting your attention. Catching yourself in the moment of a triggered state and acknowledging to yourself that you are in a high alert state. Notice your surroundings and let your eyes take in your current environment. Bring your attention to your breathing and start taking in slower, longer breaths. This slow down moment lets your system feel into the fact that you are ok. Recognizing that you’re ok can allow for a felt sense of safety to wash over. Let the cascade of safety and calm move through. You’re switching into a different branch of your nervous system.
It’s also important to notice the type of relationship you have with yourself. Being harsh with yourself or trying to force yourself to feel differently will only work against you. This is a time to be gentle with yourself. Maybe it’s the first time you’re noticing the way you treat yourself is actually important. How can you show up for yourself with self-care and compassion during a difficult time?
The good news is you never need to feel stuck for a long time. If you’re interested in learning some new tools for navigating overwhelm, please reach out. You don’t have to feel alone in your experience.