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Apprehensive about ‘normal life’ after the coronavirus pandemic?

At the time of the writing of this blog post, it’s freshly Springtime in Northern California – the days are getting longer, the trees are budding, Spring allergies have kicked in (booooo), and things are opening up more as more citizens are getting vaccinated and covid numbers are going down.  It’s been a long year (March 2020 – March 2021) and yet in other ways feels like it’s flown by.  Although the thought of getting back to ‘normal life’ can sound like a relief to some, to others it’s bringing up anxiety.  If you’re experiencing anxiety or mixed feelings about things opening up, let me be among the first to tell you that is NORMAL.  We have been through a pandemic and on-and-off lockdown/ quarantine and it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime (for most) scare.  That can take awhile to come back from.  Just as it probably took you awhile to adapt to working at home or doing school from home, it’s okay that it’ll probably take awhile to adapt to going back to work or going back to school. 

Strategies/ What to do:

Start slow – just because things are opening up doesn’t mean you have to get back to your previous schedule or do ‘all the things’.  Public schools may be a good example of a slow start, in that students are generally going half days with less than half the student population being at school.  Identify what you have to do and consider that other things that are optional, for you, for now.  You don’t need to fill your calendar; start slow.

Start with things you like – there can be agoraphobia for some with the idea of getting back out into the world in a “new normal” way.  It may help to assess what you feel most comfortable with/ least anxious about and most excited about.  Start with those preferred activities with preferred people you’re more eager to spend time with, as they’ll be likely to reinforce positive feelings for yourself.  Be intentional.  Lots of things are optional.

Focus on the positives – if you have to go back to work or school, focus on the good things about that, the things you’re looking forward to (eg, seeing your friends, getting out of the house, getting out of your sweatpants).  You might even work in a reward for yourself, such as ‘oh hey since I’ll be out anyway, why not get takeout on the way home and that’ll be a nice treat for dinner’. 

Set reasonable expectations for yourself – things take time, adjustments take time.  It took some time to adapt and adjust as most of us have had to do so several times within the past year.  Something that was initially unfamiliar became familiar and even comfortable and so it too will take time for being out in the world to feel more comfortable.

Figure out your fears – it may help to identify what is causing you most fear or anxiety, and see what can be done to mitigate those fears.  If you’re worried that life will become a huge whirlwind of activity with you running from one thing to another, it may be time to assess which of those activities may be optional for you moving forward.  You have [some] choices!  If you don’t want to do all those extra-curriculars, you don’t have to. 

Figure out when to ‘push yourself’ – if you are someone who struggled with anxiety and/or social anxiety before the pandemic, you may be familiar with having to assess whether and when to ‘push yourself’ to do things outside of your comfort zone.  You may need to work on your self-talk pep talk regarding talking to new people, as many of us have become accustomed to a smaller social circle this past year.