Blog Author: Morgan Gallagher, Intern Counselor
After more than a year spent adjusting to the “new normal” that has accompanied COVID-19, many people are anxious about returning back to normal life for a variety of reasons. Many aspects of the pre-pandemic versions of our life we have realized it is much easier to live without, whether that be commuting to work or school or the interaction with classmates and coworkers.
The presence of COVID-19 over the past year has caused us to take on a different mindset when it comes to public settings, including things such as remembering to wear a mask, noticing when others are wearing a mask improperly, assessing how close others get and adjusting our distance in order to feel comfortable, and a variety of other stimuli. In the fall, students and teachers will return to the classroom, many people will return to the office, and life will hopefully progress towards normal functioning once again. However, with more than a year spent in some type of quarantine amongst panic, fear, and the unknown, this can cause a variety of emotions that can be difficult to deal with. It is important to be knowledgeable about the practices that can be implemented in order to feel more comfortable in public and reduce the fear that we have all felt throughout this pandemic.
Some methods of dealing with anxiety and fear can include mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation. These practices help to center oneself and practice breathing techniques in order to clear the mind and relax the body. Even a simple five minute meditation in the morning can ease the mind and help to prepare for what’s to come, or a few minutes after work can help to center the mind after a stressful day. Journaling is also a good practice to cope with any negative emotions through the expression of them. Writing down thoughts and feelings can help you gain control of negative emotions and understand them more clearly. This can be done as often as needed, but introducing journaling into your daily routine can be beneficial in either preparing for the day or decompressing after the day is done. Any form of exercise can also be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety, whether that is a walk or run around the neighborhood, a bike ride, or a zoom or peloton exercise class at home, the endorphins that the body produces from exercise have been known to reduce stress.
If the anxiety about returning to pre-pandemic life is stressful for you, one of the best things you can do is ease into it. If social gatherings are the cause of the majority of stress, start by spending time with smaller groups of friends or family and slowly increase the size, or begin by spending short amounts of time at parties and gatherings and leaving when you feel uncomfortable. If visiting and venturing inside of stores is anxiety inducing, try utilizing the curbside pickup feature that many stores have, and only go inside for a few items. If wearing a mask still makes you feel comfortable in public places, continue to do so. Just remember that the return to normalcy will come to everyone at their own pace, and there is no right way to go about it, only ways to manage how each individual is feeling.