4 tips to help us re-engage in a post-COVID world

May 20, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how we live our lives. From where we work, to where we go to school, to the people we surround ourselves with, COVID has brought once-in-a-generation challenges that have affected us all physically, socially and emotionally.

While more people get vaccinated and life slowly returns to “normal,” many people now feel the stress, fear and anxiety of figuring out how to re-enter public life after living in isolation during the pandemic. 

“If a muscle isn’t used, it atrophies,” said Iliniza (Nisa) Baty, director of behavioral health at Venice Family Clinic. “Consider the thought of ‘how do I navigate and go out ’ as an atrophied muscle — we need to consciously think about how to do this again, and recognize that it will be a process that requires small steps to get back to feeling comfortable.”

Keep reading for four tips from Baty on how to feel safer and more comfortable re-engaging with the outside world.

Tip #1: Explore the root of your fear

It’s important to take a step back and look at the true roots of your fear. Do you feel anxiety about the state of the global pandemic broadly or is your fear based on your own experience? Taking the time to think can offer fresh answers and perspective.

“Many of the Clinic’s patients have in some way experienced the ravages of COVID,” said Baty. “As a result, many have dealt with heightened fears and worries that can sometimes be difficult to manage.” By taking the time to reflect and have an idea of why you’re afraid, you can slowly begin to take the necessary steps to address it. 

Baty recommends daily strategies to help manage your fear:

  • If you have lost a loved one to COVID, give yourself permission to grieve; consider therapy with a professional if needed
  • In addition to allowing yourself to grief, give yourself permission to move forward in life
  • Practice meditating and slowing your breath; you might even try an app like Headspace, which is free through 2021 for L.A. County residents.
  • Try journaling or other self-care tips you can do at home.
  • Enjoy activities that calm and inspire you such as dancing, music, and art.
  • Notice nature around you; smelling flowers can be an instant mood shifter and mindfulness moment.
  • If you haven’t already, get vaccinated to protect yourself and peace of mind

Tip #2: Focus on what you can control

With all the challenges of last year – lockdowns, lost jobs, isolating at home – life can feel quite overwhelming. It’s important to remember to focus on the present —  right now, right here, and what you can control in the moment.

“You can control your breath, where you go, who you see, whether you wear your mask,” Baty said. “When you intentionally choose to focus on what you can take action on, you start to eliminate ifs and buts and any fears associated with those. It is extremely powerful.”

Baty recommends a few techniques to use before engaging with people:

  • Review up-to-date safety practices from trusted sources like the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; find out what they recommend about wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping six feet apart, etc.
  • Plan your strategy for self care; for example, if you feel more comfortable carrying hand sanitizer, then bring it!
  • Call ahead to wherever you’re going and ask what protocols they’re following to keep people safe; you can then decide to go based on how comfortable you feel.

Tip #3: Get your body moving

Physical movement helps calm the nerves and ease anxiety. When you choose to focus on a new activity such as exercise or a bike ride, you shift negative thinking into a positive action. You’re rewarded with endorphins that make you feel happy. If practiced enough over time, your old habits will be replaced with new ones.

“Small steps over time are the key,” said Baty. “Start with a walk around your block. Then try walking around the park. Then head over to walk on the beach. When we gradually grow our comfort, we confront and break down fears.”

Baty recommends a few activities to get going:

  • Get outdoors and into the sun; choose to take frequent breaks and walks for an investment in your health.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and notice the difference in your physical and mental wellbeing; Short on time? Try our no equipment 10 minute workout
  • Try taking one of the Clinic’s free exercise classes.

Tip #4: Remember you are not alone

The pandemic has affected everyone.  Lots of other people are experiencing the range of emotions and feelings that you are. Reach out to your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors; even a simple conversation can be positive and uplifting. Venice Family Clinic is here for you, too. “We have many resources available and are always here to help,” Baty said.

If you need someone to talk to:

  • Talk to your primary care doctor. If you are a patient of the Clinic or seeking a medical home, make an appointment with one of our clinicians by calling (310) 392-8636. We also offer on-call counseling support for short term therapy, parenting support, substance use treatment, domestic violence counseling, and more.
  • Call the L.A. County COVID hotline at (800) 854-7721 for COVID-related stress and support.