What Is ‘Cave Syndrome’ & How Post-Pandemic Anxiety Is Affecting Your Mental Health
For over a year, we’ve been confined in our homes, too scared to go out. Some of us have been isolated by choice while others have not. But no matter our choices, anxiety over going back to pre-pandemic lives still lingers.
After over a year of staying in the comfort of our homes, keeping to social distance, and reducing venturing outside for work or relaxation, we are finally witnessing the world gradually open up. But, to stay in or not, is the big question.
While the global COVID-19 pandemic is still an ongoing threat, in many countries in the world, even fully vaccinated people, who are well-ready to step out are afraid and anxious to return to their pre-pandemic lives. This feeling of fear and anxiety is what can be called ‘Cave Syndrome’.
Let’s understand more about cave syndrome, how it makes people feel, and how you can cope with cave syndrome.
What Is Cave Syndrome?
Returning to your pre-pandemic routine can be a difficult transition to process. Our “new normal” isn’t what we’re used to so naturally, venturing out, meeting friends or family after months of isolation and with the threat of coronavirus still hanging can be rather challenging.
While it is not a formal psychological diagnosis, ‘cave syndrome’ can be generally used to describe the feelings of anxiety you might feel about returning to society post-pandemic (even if you’re fully vaccinated).
The causes of cave syndrome may vary from person to person. While some people are reluctant to return to their normal lives fearing the disease, others have grown habitual – and even become attached to the solitude.
Whatever the cause, the past year has not been less traumatic on anyone. The psychological effects, caused by the pandemic, were bound to occur as people have become sensitive to develop stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Cave syndrome is one of the results of related trauma. Over the past year, we’ve been protecting ourselves from the virus by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and frequently sanitizing our hands. But even then, many of us would rather choose to stay at home, safe than go out and risk exposure to the virus.
When the anxiety of going out affects your mental state and the fact that many people are choosing to socially isolate themselves than face the reality doesn’t sit well. Cave syndrome is doing nothing but increasing the risk of people developing psychological distress, trauma-related stress, loneliness, social anxiety, and anxiety-related disorders.
However, the good news is that psychologists have come up with effective ways to cope with cave syndrome or post-pandemic anxiety.
Here’s How To Cope With Cave Syndrome
1. Be Patient
The first thing you need to do is be patient with yourself. Your “new normal” isn’t going to take effect in one day. Getting back out there is going to take time and it’s a gradual process so be patient. Leaving your comfort zone for over a year is not easy, so take small steps. Do what makes you feel comfortable but don’t push yourself too hard.
2. Redefine Your ‘Normal’
Many places have made masks voluntary but that doesn’t mean you should stop doing what makes you feel comfortable. Understand your boundaries and respect them. If you feel the need to wear a mask, let others know. Share your boundaries with others and make sure others respect them as well. Do what defines your “normal”.
3. Keep Yourself Updated
One of the other ways to cope with cave syndrome or post-pandemic anxiety is to keep yourself updated. The more you know about the regulations, the precautions others are taking, and how you can keep yourself safe, the more you’ll feel relieved and stress-free. Anxiety is caused by unknown circumstances and how it’ll affect you, so keep yourself updated at all times.
4. Look Back And Appreciate Your Efforts
You have come so far in this past year, haven’t you? Well, appreciate that! Look back to all the challenges you conquered and remember the ways you’ve overcome the struggles. Reminding yourself and looking back on the challenging times will help you gain reassurance that no matter what comes your way, you’ll overcome and come out stronger, again.
5. Keep Your Hobbies Alive
Whether you learned cooking or painting in the lockdown, they have become your hobbies, so keep them alive after too. Having hobbies post-pandemic can help you remember the comfort you felt during need. When you feel anxious about returning to society, remember the comfort your hobbies gave you. Make them your self-care activities to help you release the stress.
6. Revisit Your Pre-Pandemic Life
Okay, it can be stressful to revisit your pre-pandemic life because there are many things that you can’t do without feeling fearful or anxious now. But there are many things that you have to look forward to. Like, visiting your loved ones, not virtually but physically, or hanging out with your coworkers after hours. Revisiting your previous routines may help you feel positive now.
7. Talk To A Professional
The past year has certainly been challenging and many of us struggled with emotions such as grief and denial. It’s important to accept those feelings and work through them. Here, it can be really helpful to talk to a professional mental health counselor. Feelings are important and you need to give yourself time to process those feelings. Don’t hide from them and seek help when needed.
The pandemic was and is a threat that may prevent us from returning to society. As you begin to increase confidence, spending time with people you trust, you will gain the courage to move on to the next phase of the new normal.
So, are you ready to go out again and live the “new normal” with a touch of your pre-pandemic life? If not yet, you can consult with a professional on how to move forward or you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for our help. You can also DM us on social media for more tips!
Let us know your thoughts on ‘cave syndrome’ and its effects on your mental health in the comments below!
Stay safe and take care!