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Viva Las Vegas and all the post-pandemic anxiety that comes with it

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Last weekend my husband and I attended a friend’s wedding in Vegas. They did the Elvis Presley ceremony, a fancy brunch, friends, drink, gambling, the whole Vegas experience. It was a blast! It also spotlighted some anxieties that crept up and a new awareness of how life and behaviors have shifted during the pandemic, and which changes I want to keep as we emerge into our “new normal”. Perhaps it can help you get aligned with who and how you want to be as you go back out into the world too.

Jumping into the deep end

The wedding took place the same weekend after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people could go maskless indoors and out. In true Vegas fashion, that meant a crowded free-for-all! We could feel the urgency in the air on the highway as we drove through the desert. Everyone was eager to let loose and be wild and free again.

We pulled up to our hotel to a literal swarm of people. The valet, the sidewalk, the parades of drunken people cruising through the casino, mostly maskless was a little daunting. Even though we are fully vaccinated, being thrust into such, um “normalcy?” after 18 months of rigorous social distancing and masking brought up a lot of discomfort and anxiety. We relaxed into things throughout the weekend and enjoyed a sorely missed sense of freedom, but still felt a little squeamish and socially awkward on the packed elevators.

This anxiety is completely normal. I watched my friends in Australia go through it months ago as their restriction lifted. Learning how to be in crowds and feel safe in the presence of strangers again can be scary and overwhelming. If you are a little nervous about the idea of re-emergence I don’t recommend diving off the deep end like I did, unless you’re a “rip the band aid off quickly” type of person. I’d say start slow and know that it’s ok to feel weird. Maybe an outdoor lunch with friends you haven’t seen in a while (trust me you probably miss this more than you even know!). Or try an afternoon indoors at a museum or some place that is metering the influx of people. I have also been removing my mask when I walk the dog in the morning, keeping it handy when I pass others on the street.

Bottom line, baby steps are ok. We completely changed our behavior toward each other. It’s going to take a moment to be comfortable getting close again. Go at your pace, mask where and when required AND when YOU feel more comfortable, and be patient with yourself as you get used to the new normal.

Finally, one thing that absolutely didn’t feel awkward, not even for a second, was hugging my friends. OH MY GOODNESS how I have missed this!!

Reunion Jitters

My wedding weekend was full of old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. If you’ve ever been to a high school reunion you may have experienced this form of anxiety. The instant fear of judgement. Will they notice my gray hair, the new wrinkles around my eyes, or that little jiggle that has taken up permanent residence on my (insert body part here)?

Even if you’re not seeing people after a decade, as we come out of isolation, we will be seeing people in person after not seeing them for over a year. Those same sensations will likely make an appearance as well. I know many of my clients and friends have mentioned the “COVID 19 pounds” they gained. They just don’t feel their best, or perhaps they’re scared they’ve forgotten how to socialize. Oy, we really are our own worst enemy sometimes.

I feel pretty loving and accepting of myself these days but all of these fears washed over me as I received a text inviting us to come hang out at the bar Friday night. I was sporting a pair of old yoga pants with paint stains on them, and was a little bloated and windblown from 6 hours in the car. I stood in the hotel bathroom debating an outfit change and make up and then said, “Fuck it!”. These are my friends (and I only have one nice outfit for the wedding).

Once I committed, most of the nerves went away. Once I started seeing and hugging my friends, all the anxiety had completely dissipated. No one cared about the bags under my eyes or the paint on my pants, and if they did notice it didn’t change their opinion of me, nor do I care if it did. As much as we obsess and worry about the impression we’re making, people just want to see you, hug you, spend time with you. That’s why you’re friends. Also, they are probably worried about their own wrinkles and bs too!

This can be a very scary mindset shift to make, but let me tell you, once you make it, you are free to enjoy the company of those who love you. So say yes to that girl’s brunch, squeeze into your nicest yoga pants, brush your hair, and know that you got this!

Integrating the new pandemic me into the old world

Lockdown forced us to change our daily routines which have undoubtedly created new habits and patterns. Some you may be ready to shed, like binge-watching hours of Hulu or doom scrolling at 2 am. Others you might really like and are experiencing anxiety around how you’re going to maintain them once you get back out, like a daily yoga class, not eating fast food, or not drinking alcohol.

The reality is you’re going to be busier in the awakening world, and have to do a little planning to ensure you have time for these new important things. It may create frustration and overwhelm, but the good news is, you figured out how to do these things already during a global crisis. You can absolutely find a way to maintain them going forward including mindset exercises and small incremental shifts in your daily routine.

You will also most likely find your “new” self in an “old” situation and feel at odds with how to behave. For me last weekend, this was “new” me – doesn’t drink much in “old” situation – a city full of booze and friends I used to drink with during my 20s.

How did I cope? Pretty good overall. Firstly, I had a plan – keep it mellow on Friday and save it for Saturday. This took some conscious effort once at the bar, but I walked went up to bed after one drink. Success!

Secondly, I focused on what I love and know about the “new” me. I love to get up and exercise and meditate in the morning, which doesn’t happen when I’m hungover. I also know now that I’m 42 and I can’t just get up and run it off. Boozing means I’m tired, achy, puffy, and less social – all things I don’t enjoy. When I focus on what I love, it beats out the little voice in my head that says, ” just stay for one more.” This takes practice, but it’s soooo very worth it.

Thirdly, I focused on what was most important – my friend getting married!! I wasn’t to remember and celebrate every second. Much more important than a hefty buzz.

Fourthly, similar to wrinkles, if I am confident in my choice of when and how much to drink, that decision will likely be respected by everyone else. Do YOU and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Those who truly have our best interests at heart will respect our healthy choices.

Finally, I arranged for help from my husband if needed to remind me of my “new me” priorities. Keeping a trusted ally in your corner can help you when you’re feeling weak.

All In for the Win

So all in all, a fabulous weekend. Anxieties and stress appeared as they do, and I worked through them. As we all start to awaken and head out into the world, be ready to feel a little off, scared, anxious, irritated, less than, not ready, etc. You are perfectly normal even if the stress feels abnormal. Also know you can do this, on your own terms, bringing those good habits you want to keep in rotation, ditching those behaviors that no longer serve you, and stepping wholly into the new you.

If the thought of doing all this alone is overwhelming, then don’t. There are plenty of resources to help you navigate these new times. Therapy, online support groups, and yes, coaching are all great options. My program focuses on alleviating stress and anxiety, gaining more energy, and yes you can ditch those covid pounds and incorporate healthy habits and eating into the busiest of schedules without feeling deprived (I don’t believe in diets). If any of this sounds like something you desire then let’s chat. I always start with a free session to explore what ails you, where you’d like to be, and discover together if coaching is the right path for you. Book a session here. I can’t wait to meet you and help you thrive in this post-pandemic world.

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