As we slowly re-enter the world some people are more than nervous, they are panicked. Everyone is worried or anxious to some degree about what lies ahead and if they might get sick, but sometimes that anxiety can get really big. For some, their anxiety is so great that they don’t want to socialize or even be in public… What they have is Re-Entry Panic Syndrome. This is a term I coined because it is more than just worrying about what will happen next, it is when feelings of panic come over you like a wave and you can’t leave your home, or you have to return to work or school. You are afraid of leaving your cozy quarantine abode because you don’t want to get sick or feel unsafe.
While the fear of COVID-19 infection from the coronavirus is real and we should all have some worry, there are people that are crippled by their panic.
What is the Difference Between Anxiety and Re-entry Panic Syndrome?
Anxiety is your brain’s or body’s response to stress that can be triggered by a multitude of things. The stressor can be real or imagined or a perceived threat. Low levels of anxiety can keep you alert and engaged but high levels of anxiety can lead to a clinical problem. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders. People with the most common type of anxiety disorder, GAD, spend an excessive amount of time worrying about a number of things.
With Re-Entry Panic Syndrome, it is specific to worry about re-entering your community, full-time job, or school after a pandemic quarantine due to the fear of becoming ill. The fear of becoming ill if they leave their home is overwhelming and can result in physical, behavioral, or emotional distress.
What Are Signs and Symptoms of Re-entry Panic Syndrome?
Just like most mental health issues, the symptoms of Re-Entry Panic Syndrome can be physical, behavioral, or emotional.
- Physical symptoms can include: shortness of breath, chest pain, panic attacks, sweating, nausea, and racing heartbeat
- Behavioral Symptoms can include: avoidance, becoming upset when others close to them re-enter after quarantine, difficulty sleeping, irritability, a general change in behavior
- Emotional symptoms can include: worry, mood fluctuation, anger, emotional upset or tearful
What Should You Do to Lessen Your Worries About Re-entering Society?
The first thing a person who has anxiety of any kind should do is to practice good self-care so you can lessen your stress and sleep better, which will reduce your overall anxiety. If you don’t have your own oxygen mask on, then you can’t breathe. Self-care isn’t a luxury, rather, it is a necessity in this time of unprecedented stress.
It is important to check-in and connect with friends and family. Try to spend time with friends who are more positive in general who can help lift you out of your funk.
If you have been in your house for weeks, then it is important to get out. Start with going to one place that you feel safest, then add another place every few days. These types of safe and successful exposures will show your subconscious brain that you are safe and you can talk back to your worry. Sometimes those small successes can lead to big shifts.
If you are worried about returning to work, it is very important to talk to your employer about when they plan on having you return and what that looks like. Always be respectful and ask questions, but realize they are doing the best they can and can’t always answer every question you have. It is okay to tell your employer or human resources staff that you are extremely worried.
What Are the 4 Steps a Person Can Take to Lessen Their Anxiety and Panic?
With our trademarked, REPS Protocol™, we teach people how to break free from their re-entry panic with four steps.
- Stress Management
With Resperate, we teach the importance of breathwork in calming the brain and body. Breathwork impacts the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which often at a subconscious level, receives information from the environment and other parts of the body and regulates the activity of the organs. The ANS is composed of the parasympathetic and sympathetic symptoms both of which have a direct impact on how we manage stress. The body's fight or flight response is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. The other part is the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to relax and slow down the body's response.
When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing can get irregular and shallow breath affects our ANS. When we breathe deeply, this allows for more carbon dioxide to enter your blood, which quiets down parts of the brain, such as the emotional centers that handle your anxiety response: the limbic system and the amygdala. On the other hand, slow, deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system
When you do a 4-7-8 breath, you are working to exhale few counts longer than your inhale and when you do this, the vagus nerve, which goes from the neck down through the diaphragm, sends a signal to your brain to increase your parasympathetic nervous system and decrease your sympathetic nervous system, which leads to a calmer state.
With the next step, Envision, we teach the power of visualizing the good outcomes. Being mindful of our surroundings and using visualization to reduce stress has become an increasingly popular technique. The intent practice of visualization is different from meditation. Visualization is a powerful way to not only get clarity on your goals but to help manifest them. Successful people spend a lot of time visualizing what they want. First, they hone in on their authentic purpose and then create goals around it. They “see” what they want and everyday spend time visualizing that outcome and pair it with action around those goals that move them to positive outcomes. Whether you have a goal to better manage stress or address a specific issue, intentful visualization is a great way to create positive momentum by getting to that core of the issue and its resolution.
Step three involves embodying Positivity in your thinking and words. Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty? Research is very clear that those with a positive outlook are happier and live longer. While some are born with a positive disposition and others are not, you can develop a sunny outlook with intention and practice. Catch yourself being negative and simply flip your internal and external dialogue. Didn’t get the seat you wanted at your favorite restaurant? Try and say, “I can’t wait to check out this window or now I am closer to the server, so I can get better service”. Those subtle changes in how you view things help you to remain positive in any situation.
The final step is making time every day for Stress Management. Calming that nervous system down allows you to literally think. When your stress is at maximum capacity, your frontal lobes literally go offline and it is almost impossible to have a rational thought let alone react rationally. Our over-activated nervous system causes you to go into a flight, fight, freeze response. So nurturing your nervous system is critical to being able to think and react in a calm manner, so one can control these anxious and even panicked feelings behaviors. The daily practice of breathwork, meditation, biofeedback and neurofeedback, and yoga are proven and natural techniques and therapies that children and adults can effectively calm their brain and body down, so they can restore their attention, mood, and thinking.
How Can a Parent Manage their Anxiety When a Child or Teen Can and Wants to Re-enter the World?
The most important thing a parent should do is recognize that they need to put their own oxygen mask on first before they talk about this with their child or teen. If they are observably anxious, your child will feel it. The flip side is that when we are calm, our kids will feel reassured by that.
Parents have to be open to the idea of the world reopening. They should sit down with their children and find out what they want to do and what they can do in their community. They should calmly review what their child or teen wants to do and paint the picture of what it will look like, as well as discuss the parameters. Start with short outings or meet-ups in public and do activities that you all can feel comfortable and safe with.
What Should Schools do to Help Ease Parent's Anxiety About Their Child Returning to School?
With so much unknown about what the school year will look like in the fall, we have to plan for several contingencies and follow the CDC considerations for schools guidelines. It is pretty clear that school will be different and involve some type of hybrid of online and in class learning.
Schools have a lot of work ahead of them to prepare for the educational needs of their students along with the safety needs of students and employees. They also will have to address the emotional needs of their staff, students, and families and explicitly address their concerns with a formal plan. Having already helped several independent schools and school districts develop a student, family, and teacher mental health plan for the fall of 2020, I can tell you that there are a lot of tangles and the plan needs to be very well thought out and explicit.
How Can an Employer Help an Employee Who is Afraid to Return to Work?
First, employers need to make sure they are having ongoing discussions about what you are doing to ensure the safety of employees and customers. Employers need to put their sanitizing and safety procedures in writing.
Employers need to be prepared for a range of emotions from their employees. One employee may be immobilized by fear and another may be so excited to return. These are all valid feelings and just anticipating different emotions can help you give your employees what they need and make this a win-win for all.
It is important to ask your employee how they are feeling and what they need, so you can gauge their responses and needs in advance of asking them to return to work. If you have an employee assistance program in place, using their expertise to help employees with Re-Entry Panic Syndrome is a good idea. If you don’t have an EAP program, make sure to check with your HR staff or consultant to find out what kind of mental health support you can legally offer to your staff, as regulations vary by state.
Work will look different going forward, so paint the picture the best you can for your employees and this will help to alleviate stress. Now more than ever, companies need to put stress and wellness initiatives in place to retain employees. They need to support not just the employee but maintain wellness for the organization and the company culture and wellness initiatives are proactive ways to do that.
When Should You Seek Help?
There are many things one can do on your own to lessen stress and anxiety, but if you are stuck in an anxious and panicked mode, then your life is impacted. If you are worried about re-entering the world is interfering with your daily functioning, including returning to work or leaving your home when the quarantine has been lifted, you should seek help from a professional licensed therapist.
Evidence-Based Therapies for Mental Health
Call our center today to discuss how we can help you or your child or teen with our clinically effective and natural therapies, such as neurofeedback or biofeedback, mindfulness, and meditation addressing Re-entry Panic Syndrome, anxiety, Executive Functioning, ADHD, OCD, depression, concussion, and numerous other conditions. We also offer counseling, executive functioning coaching, social skills support, and behavioral support for children and families, and parent coaching sessions with our staff psychotherapists. To set up an appointment for a QEEG Brain Mapping consultation with Dr. Roseann, or to virtually meet with our psychotherapists and parenting specialists, call 203.544.2781 or email: [email protected].
Live out of state? We work with children, individuals, and families through our intensive therapies program “The 360° Reboot® Program”. Or take our course: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Reverse Your Child’s Mental Health Issues With Natural Therapies
If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or a school who would like to have Dr. Roseann speak with staff and families, contact us at 203.544.2781 or email: [email protected].
Dr. Roseann is a Pediatric Mental Health Expert and Therapist who is regularly featured on media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, FORBES, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS.
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann and Associates, a Connecticut-based center that’s helped thousands of children and adults reverse the most challenging conditions such as ADHD, Autism, anxiety, depression, concussion, learning disability, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS. Dr. Roseann treats these conditions using proven holistic therapies such as neurofeedback, biofeedback, psychotherapy, and nutrition using her trademarked intensive two-week intensive 360 Reboot™ Program. She is the co-author of the best selling book “Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy”.
Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2020
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If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s media page and professional speaking page to see how we can work together.
Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.