Following months of physical distancing, people must now adapt to the new-normal society, but the adjustment won’t be easy for some.
Keep in mind that the sudden lockdown was challenging as well. One day you might be enjoying an after-work dinner with friends before attending a concert or game, and the next day you’re isolated at home while a pandemic shuts down much of society. This 180-degree turn was hard to endure, so it’s not surprising that many people were overwhelmed by shock, sadness and a sense of lost control.
With society reopened, getting back in the swing of things may be difficult. After all, you’ve managed to cope with a stressful situation and adapted to new routines. You likely set up a home office, binge-watched shows to stay entertained, cooked or baked more than ever, and mastered exercise without a gym. Now you’re expected to shift gears and restart a “normal” life in a more frightening and uncertain world. It’s a lot to absorb and may lead to renewed stress and anxiety.
In fact, you may lose confidence in doing things you haven't done in a while, or being in situations that used to be second nature. For some people, squeezing onto overcrowded public vehicles, traversing busy sidewalks, riding office tower elevators and attending in-person meetings are just a few activities that can be stressful at any time, let alone during a pandemic.
Fortunately, you can make the resumption of everyday life a smoother, less painful process.
Four tips for successful reintegration
- Build up gradually. It might be tempting to jump right back to your regular ways, but a gradual approach will be easier for you emotionally. For instance, if your workplace allows for it, try going in one or two days a week to start, and do the other days remotely. You can apply the same approach to working out at the gym or meeting friends for coffee or lunch. Observe how you feel, and once you’re confident enough, you can add to your routine. Don’t try going from 0 to 100 in a single day.
- Stay safe. As you reintegrate, continue protecting yourself and others. Take heed of your region’s safety protocols. Best practices include: washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water, using hand sanitizer/wipes, if soap is unavailable, maintaining adequate social distance, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces, minimizing touching your face and staying home if you feel sick or believe you may have been exposed to the virus (get tested to confirm).
- Keep your hobbies. If you discovered a new hobby that you truly enjoy, then continue with it as part of your new-normal life. Not only will this create a valuable sense of habit and routine, but it will also serve as a point of continuity as you transition from your days of self-isolation to everyday living. In effect, you will be carrying forward a positive aspect of the pandemic to enhance your current life.
- Remain connected. During the pandemic, technology has helped you maintain relationships with family and friends as you navigate an unsettling and momentous life experience. Once your days become hectic again, don’t forget about nurturing this valuable network of contacts. Continue with your video chats, phone calls, text messages, emails and social media interactions. If conditions permit and you feel comfortable enough, meet in person as another dimension of the relationship.
Better days ahead
It’s natural to have reservations, uncertainty or anxiety about returning to normal life after a lengthy lockdown, but as you refamiliarize with your typical activities, it gets easier. Whenever possible, reintegrate at your own pace and comfort level. Also, remember that everyone experiences change differently, so be patient, kind, understanding and empathetic as we all try adapting to the new normal.