Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and had your mind immediately travel to the items still on your to-do list? Or your don’t-do list? Or your oh-my-god-what-if list?
Has your chest tightened at the thought of catching up with coworkers and friends as we approach a post-pandemic society?
- What if it’s weird when I see them in person?
- What do I talk about?
- What did I even do this past year?
- Was I productive enough?
- Did I waste all my time?
- Did they do better than me?
Turns out, these thoughts are common in people who are dipping their toes into what pre-pandemic life used to be. As with many things in life, though, these feelings fall on a spectrum. There’s always a threshold where ‘common’ crosses over into ‘cause for concern.’
Those thoughts may look a little more like this:
- What will I say to my coworkers when I get back to work?
- Will I be awkward?
- Will they notice?
- Do I even remember how to communicate with people?
- What if they ask me what I did during quarantine?
- What did I do?
- Did I waste all my time?
- Did I set myself back a year on achieving my goals?
- Can I make up the time?
- Will I always be behind everyone else?
The two thought processes aren’t all that different. The same anxieties about socializing, productivity, and self-comparison are there. And sure, it’s natural to wonder if we used our time wisely and made the best out of a bad situation. Part of human nature is measuring personal successes and failures against those of others. But is it healthy? Where exactly do these things cross that threshold?
Let’s take a second to put some of these things in perspective:
Productivity nationwide (or worldwide, really) slowed to a crawl. Our social and work lives changed almost overnight. Suddenly, we couldn’t go outside, and we couldn’t see our loved ones. The news was a black hole of depressing statistics and updates. And just when we thought we were finally able to stomach the reality of living in a pandemic, dystopian stories of political and social unrest were added to the news docket.
Humans are incredibly social creatures. Adjustment to a new social environment does not happen overnight. Everything was unprecedented (yes, it’s that word I never want to hear again).
Now, let’s look at those anxious thoughts again.
Was I productive enough? – Compared to what?
Did I waste my time? – Relative to whom?
Did I set myself back? – From where?
Did they do better than me? – By which standards?
These are not wise questions to be asking ourselves.
What matters is that we are alive and starting again.
But anxiety doesn’t really ask us about that. Anxiety asks, “WHY WEREN’T YOU BETTER?!”
Sometimes we’re able to disprove this line of thinking on our own.
Other times, we believe the lies anxiety tells us and, without realizing it, we stumble past the point of no return. COVID’s chaos is out of perspective, and the terrible state of the world has become the blurry backdrop for our personal “shortcomings” to jump out from. So when we ask ourselves when this post-COVID anxiety becomes too much to keep ignoring, this is the answer.
Are you having trouble with perspective? Do you feel like you’re close to crossing the ‘cause for concern’ threshold? Have you crossed it already?
Now is a good time to take a deep breath and stand up to your anxiety.
If you need someone on your team, I am here.