Today, the sun rose.
Tomorrow, the sun will rise.
While the dependability of our solar system’s star is a given (at least for the next 4.5 billion years), many things we once took for granted in our own lives no longer are. Will they be reliable again in a post-COVID life?
COVID turned the world upside down for many of us and created a dispiriting environment of uncertainty, erraticism, and fatigue. In fact, over the past year, national polls have revealed an increase in reported anxiety by adults, teens, and children at an alarming rate of 46%!
As more people receive the COVID vaccine, the hope is infection rates will drop, resiliency takes hold, and regularity returns. Though, with states beginning to ease restrictions, many people still remain apprehensive about the future and the path to get there.
As we approach post-COVID life, how do we get “back to normal?”
First, it’s important to note that anxiety looks different in different people. It can present as withdrawal and a delay in reacting, or it can look like anger, resistance, and impulsiveness.
It is normal to feel anxiety and excitement as we begin this transition because re-engaging with our pre-pandemic life is similar to finally getting to go on a much-needed vacation and beginning a new job after leaving a stressful one. We may be nervous, excited, and stressed. So, please make intentional plans as you engage in our post-COVID community
What kinds of plans should we make?
- Pace yourself. Balance work, life, and play. Add one event at a time then check in on how you feel, emotionally and physically. Our social activity levels have been seriously impacted for the past year. So, our tolerance level for putting out that excited-to-be-with-people energy will need to be built up, again.
- Be kind to yourself. Notice any mental demands you believe to be true. These typically start with what we should, could, must, or have to expect out of ourselves and others. And, our community’s transition into post-COVID living is new to everyone. We are all in a new learning curve moment with our individual re-entry concerns. The most prominent groups are focused on how each publicly engages.
- Families that are either frazzled, empathetic, or protective manage their social activity level based on financial need, community contagion risks, or personal health risks, respectively.
- People who were socially anxious prior to the pandemic experienced an increased sense of relief from their distress when stay-at-home orders were restrictive. However, their anxiety may be now reawakened and intensified by the lowering of these restrictions.
- And, people who have expressed resistance to and denial of the pandemic’s reality and the need for vaccinations have remained persistent in challenging those who have followed CDC guidelines, which have resulted in increasing national bi-partisanship in our social rules of engagement.
- Express your needs clearly. Be aware of what you need to interact safely and comfortably while also be considerate of others and the situation you will be in. This is a time for each of us to care for ourselves along with each other so that we can heal as a community. If this becomes cumbersome or too difficult for you, please consult with a mental health professional.
- Keep self-care a priority. We are all wanting to be with friends, go on vacation, return to our beloved places of worship, and hold those postponed rituals. In order to do so, it is most important that we attend to those simple acts of self-care that keep us centered, calm, and focused, like eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water each day, and getting a little daily exercise, social interaction, and sunlight.
- Be mindful of your feelings. Our behaviors and our reactions are a direct result of our emotions. We react when we are impulsive, not thoughtful, or our actions. We respond when we are truly aware of what we feel and what we think before we act because we have intentionally decided how to act.
For those who experience persistent and distressing mental chatter, try addressing it with a “self-distancing” technique. Take out the “I” in your worry thoughts and encourage yourself from a 3rd-person perspective. It’s like asking for your trusted/respected friend’s advice – “What would they do?”
If you like to use mnemonics, try moving forward with RESEARCH.
- Resilience – lead or act by example you would like others to provide for you.
- Science – act based on fact/truth to feel a sense of security to boost your confidence.
- Equanimity – maintain calmness or an even temper in times of difficulty.
- Adaptability – learn how to be a quick learner of new skills as we enter times of change.
- Reduce your Ego –take an “I need you” to help attitude to encourage equal team effort (instead of “follow me”).
- Cohesion – work equally together to improve trust in our joined effort in work, play, and relaxation.
- Hope – continue expressing belief in your and others’ efforts at trying together to address concerns, big and small.
Finally, our post-COVID world will not come to life like the turn of a light switch. We all have been working together day by day to get through this unprecedented time we have called the “new normal.” We will all re-engage with it in the same way.
What else should you know about easing into post-COVID life?
Watch this video of family and marriage therapist Susan Harrington, founder of Maison Vie New Orleans, share tips on how to get on the path to taking back control of your life. You can also contact us to see how we can help guide you through personal counseling sessions.