British Columbia

Feeling anxious about B.C. reopening? You're not alone, counsellor says

While some people are eager to get out of their homes and rebuild their social lives, others may find this time exceptionally overwhelming. 

Tips on how to overcome stress as B.C. continues phased reopening

The thought of returning to social interactions, even while physically distanced, can be overwhelming for some people after staying at home as much as possible the past two months. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

The second phase of a four-phase plan to reopen B.C. took effect this week, which means some businesses are starting to open their doors, and British Columbians are returning to some semblance of normalcy.

Earlier this week, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that this phased approach to reopening some businesses is safe and that everyone should take the reopening at their own pace.

"I want to reassure you that we would not be easing these restrictions if we did not feel we could do so safely," she said. "Protecting everybody is and will remain our number one priority."

While some people are eager to get out of their homes and rebuild their social lives, others may find this time exceptionally overwhelming. 

"Those people who've been missing that social contact, they've been missing the outside-the-home lifestyle, those people are getting really antsy and really really excited to re-establish their connection and their pattern," Dahne Harding told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

"But many of them are nervous and they're anxious, all the way up to downright afraid of how to actually do that in a safe way."

Harding, a clinical counsellor in Prince George, B.C., said for people who tend to be socially anxious to begin with, the weeks spent socially isolating may have been a relief.

"They're kind of grieving [the loss of] this sense of normalcy that they have acquired over the last few weeks," she said.

  • To hear the complete interview with Dahne Harding on Daybreak Northtap here. 

Self reflection

If you're feeling stressed out about the province opening up, Harding said, it's important to take time to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted you. 

Take stock of what has brought you grief, what you've missed while isolated at home and what sense of loss you feel now or felt. 

"The more aware an individual is of their own needs and their own issues, the less likely they are to be reactive in times of stress or, in this case, in times of anticipation," Harding said.

Individual coping strategies

Different aspects of the pandemic and the reopening can trigger feelings of anxiety so knowing what it is that stresses you out, be it finances, isolation or relationships can be helpful. 

Taking time to understand what makes you, as an individual, feel grounded, such as exercise or meditation, will provide coping strategies for when the stress and anxiety around reopening becomes overwhelming.

Not knowing their individual needs, Harding said, is when people can turn to drugs, alcohol or other "maladaptive" coping strategies. 

Focus on what you can control

The pandemic has come with many uncertainties — not just about the virus itself. New rules imposed by the government and being unable to see friends and family has created a sense of chaos for some. 

"A lot of the fear around COVID has really been around all the things we can't control," Harding said. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has acknowledged how stressful the loosening of restrictions this week can be for some. (CBC/Mike McArthur)

She said the best way to handle it is to identify what can be controlled and focus on that. For example, a commitment to daily spiritual practices can be a source of control. 

Setting boundaries with both loved ones and strangers in terms of physical distancing is another source of control. 

"These are all things that we can control in an environment where there's many, many things that, literally, are without the boundaries of our control," Harding said.

Last month, the provincial government announced $5 million to expand existing mental health programs and launch new services during COVID-19.  According to an email from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, those services are intended to help people through all stages of the pandemic, including a return to day-to-day activites. 

"These mental health supports are available to all British Columbians, no matter where they live in the province, and there are specific programs for youth, health-care workers, students and educators and seniors," the ministry said. 


With files from Daybreak North


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