A Therapist’s Best Advice for This Pandemic Transition Time

How to get back into the world even if you’re feeling anxious

Kathleen Smith
Published in
2 min readApr 19, 2021


Photo: Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

If you’ve been vaccinated for Covid-19, you may have noticed that your pandemic anxiety isn’t going anywhere. A crowded grocery store, or even a hug from another vaccinated friend, can feel like too much too fast.

Some of this anxiety may be about the disease itself, but often it has to do with new relationship challenges. As many people step back into their social life, they’ll inevitably encounter conflict with others: Maybe you have friends who are not ready to hang out in person yet. Your spouse isn’t thrilled that you’re spending less time with them. Or your parents insist that you spend all your vacation time visiting them.

The truth is that you’re bound to upset a few people as you navigate when and how you want to reenter the world. As I’ve told my therapy clients, you can spend a lot of time and energy trying to make everyone happy, or you can simply follow your best thinking about what’s right for you.

People who try to overfunction for others are often more anxious than people who do not. And if you spend all your energy trying to teach others how to navigate life, you may find that you have little left to direct yourself.

Focusing on others can look like:

  • Trying to convince people to hang out with you.
  • Encouraging others to take more or fewer risks.
  • Doing what others want to calm them down.

Focusing on yourself could look like:

  • Deciding what you want to do.
  • Sharing your thinking without trying to convince people.
  • Calming yourself down instead of calming others.

Many people would say they’ve learned quite a bit about themselves during the pandemic. They’re ready to let go of some relationship dynamics that weren’t quite working, or spend less time doing the things they prioritized in their past life. Don’t abandon that thinking just because it makes your mom huff in disappointment or your best friend grow impatient with you.

Each of us will have our own path back toward normal, whatever that will mean in a post-pandemic world. And just because we take different routes doesn’t mean we can’t be compassionate toward others as we navigate our own. The more you respect yourself and the thoughtful decisions you’re making, the more respect you’ll be able to show others as well. And what’s more respectful than being honest about what you really want?



Kathleen Smith
Writer for

Kathleen Smith is a therapist and author of the book Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.