As restrictions and guidelines lift around the US, we are being called back into life and are now allowed to do many more things that we haven’t been able to enjoy for quite some time. After a year of being under severe restrictions we have to figure out how to interact with others again in public places. We had ways to cope with stress and many of us lost our sense of security. and were forced to look inside ourselves.
Running a Mental Stock Check
The entire world has shifted in some way and your mental health may have suffered greatly this past year. You may be struggling with depression or find yourself feeling anxious about going out into the world again. You may also feel like you have been waiting for this moment forever. Whatever your scenario, it is important to find your new normal. Some aspects to consider include how to return and be okay in public spaces, with family and friends, attending events or even returning to the workplace.
So how do we get back into feeling more comfortable with returning? Let us look at some ways to be caring, compassionate and strategic so you feel prepared and ready for this new shift.
Discover Your “Release Valve”
A “release valve” refers to something we use to relieve stress in our daily life. It could be physical, spiritual, and/or emotional. During this past year, what did you learn about yourself and how you dealt with the stress? Was it the same as how you handled stress before? How have you adapted? What exercise videos work at home? Has a new sleep/work life balance given you more time to do something? Have you found a new appreciation for something you did not before? Is it just as nice to appreciate going back to a gym, or a yoga class?
To start integrating some of these “release valves” back into your life, there are a few steps you can take:
- Ask about the safety protocols an organization or person utilizes. Are you comfortable with their answer?
- Review your own personal safety – are you doing all the things you need to do to feel safe?
- Continue to adapt and grow within the public places that feel okay to YOU – You do not need to go into an all or nothing scenario.
Find time to be alone after so much time in isolation
It may seem counterintuitive but it is critical that you look at alone time differently. After being in isolation for a long time and having to go back into other spaces can be anxiety provoking. If you have had a lot of time alone it may be overwhelming to see a lot of people. This is normal.
Our brains are designed and wired for connection; it has been hard to connect with others this past year. The quality of how we spend time with people may have to change. We may get overstimulated, depressed, or feel overwhelmed more easily. It is important to honor those experiences and look at some spacing out of your plans. Honor where you are and accept that may change as more time passes. THAT IS OKAY!
Accept New Emotions and Changes
Lastly, it is okay to not be okay. Emotional reactions and challenges may linger at times. You may need to recalibrate your expectations as you adjust to seeing others again more frequently. At times, you find yourself comparing yourself to others, either in body weight/activities they participated in, or trips they took. It is important to remember, those feelings of missing out are part of grief, and the adjustment of being back in places we used to visit often without thought, can now bring thoughts/ feelings and emotions. Be kind to yourself and others.We are just starting to rebuild and you are NOT behind.
The shock and excitement of returning to civilization as well as all the other feelings you may have about it are normal and ok. Appreciate all the amazing things you did to get THROUGH this pandemic – that, that is an amazing place to start! Remember to say to yourself. “I got through this; I can do anything”.
About Jennifer Rego, MSW, LICSW
Jennifer is a psychotherapist with over sixteen years of experience in the mental health field based in Massachusetts. She provides individual and family counseling, movement-based healing, clinical supervision and facilitates various workshops in the community with other multi-disciplinary professional providers.