In the wake of increased vaccinations and decreased rates of COVID-19, a question that has likely crossed our minds is “what will life be like when things are back to normal?” In fact, we are already seeing signs of our pre-COVID-19 life returning; restaurants and stores are increasing their capacity, sporting and concert venues are planning events for the summer and travel is increasing as we approach the brink of summer. While some of us may find these changes to be invigorating and exciting, others may feel hesitant to re-engage in activities and experience anxiety at the thought of returning to the office, school or socializing; we might even feel a little bit of both. The good news is that any reaction we have is normal!
We have all endured one of the most stressful and challenging times in our lives and lived through a year that we could have never anticipated. With life returning to it’s “Pre-Covid state”, it can be helpful to remember that with change comes opportunity and possibility for growth. However, we can choose to take this period as a time to reevaluate our barometer for socializing, re-learn how to make time for ourselves and prioritize and re-establish our boundaries. So, whether you are eager and ready to resume activities outside of your homes or feel better slowly easing into old routines, here are some tips and thoughts to help guide you through this process!
- Be patient with yourself, change is difficult and is not a linear process (there will be some bumps in the road). Practicing self compassion can go a long way; self compassion might look like being aware of your own ‘self talk’ and thinking how to be kinder to yourself or treating yourself the same way you might treat a friend in your situation, we are typically more empathic towards others than ourselves.
- Understand your own comfort level. It is important to first figure out what works best for you while remembering there is no right or wrong answer. Your comfort level might be wearing a mask and sticking to socially distanced outdoor gatherings or dining indoors with loved ones but either way it is your choice.
- Practice or begin to set boundaries and say “no” to things you are not yet comfortable doing, it is also important to remember that your boundaries may not be the same as someone else’s and that’s ok! Feel empowered to ask your employer about safety guidelines and procedures for returning to work.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you spend outside of your home; start with an activity such as having a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop and sitting outside for 30 minutes and work up to seeing a group of friends or family for dinner. By slowly increasing your tolerance for these activities, you may help ease yourself into the process of socializing and feel less anxious when larger events do arise.
- Be mindful of your body’s cues-are you experiencing racing thoughts, heart palpitations or heavy breathing before leaving home? We have been living in a state of anxiety for the last year so if you feel anxious or uncomfortable, you are not alone. If you find yourself feeling distressed, grounding exercises such as deep breathing, a quick meditation or a mindfulness activity (identify 5 things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste) can be centering and calming.
- Remember to take care of yourself-we too often forget to do the things that make us feel most at peace such as taking a long bath, reading or going for a walk. It will be important to re-establish a balance between your home life and the outside world as we navigate what our “new normal” will be in the coming months.
- Schedule some ‘down time’ following social activities to allow yourself to decompress-whether that’s taking the following night off to watch netflix and ordering take-out or sleeping in the next day, socializing can be a tiring task and it’s been awhile!