Navigating the New Normal
Article Written by Danyelle Ubertini, LMSW
The past few months have truly flipped our worlds upside-down. We have had to adjust to an entirely new way of life. As the country continues to slowly reopen you may find yourself hoping for everything to return to normal. Unfortunately, we aren’t returning to normal, but rather working together to create a new normal. Places that are opening or never closed may look and feel different than they did before the pandemic. Adjusting may not be easy, but with the right tools, guidelines, and supports, we can navigate this new normal together!
How Are You Feeling About The Reopening?
No matter what your answer to this question is, it’s normal! Nervous? Normal. Confused. Normal. Maybe a little relieved? Normal! We may all be living in the same world but we don’t all have the same life so our feelings about reopening will be different. It’s important to think about how you and the rest of your family are feeling about returning to pre-COVID activities. Take a look inward and decide what you are truly comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. Understanding your feelings and beliefs, as well as validating them, is the first step towards re-entering society. You’re not crazy or overreacting. Allow yourself to feel how you feel and you’ll be much better equipped to work through it!
Ways to Cope
Like I said, it’s normal to feel a variety of feelings about reopening. However, those with negative feelings about it (anxiety, fear, nerves, etc.) will find reentering society to be difficult, and may need a little help in preparing for the next stage. Since we can’t stay home forever, how do we manage these emotions and prepare for the next steps? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for these negative feelings, but there are some strategies we can use to manage them. Here are some tips for coping with negative feelings surrounding our new normal and entering this new phase.
Focus on facts and what you can control
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we may feel anxious during the reopening is a lack of certainty and control. There is still a lot we don’t know about the virus which can make us feel uneasy however, there is a great deal of information out there that we can call upon to make informed decisions. It’s healthy to acknowledge that certain things are out of your control so that you spend less time figuring out a way to control them and instead spend your energy making the best decisions for what you can. We may not be able to control when we go back to work, when our children begin school, or, most importantly, control the virus itself. However, not everything is out of our control. Do your due diligence and read information and recommendations from trusted sources. Having accurate information can help you make informed decisions which can give you a small sense of control in an uncontrollable world.
- Educate yourself on safety measures
One way to deal with fear about resuming daily activities is to learn about the safety measures in place wherever you plan on going. Do you need to see a doctor? Find out what their precautions are to see if you feel comfortable enough to go. Want to go to the store? Do a walk by and see what the atmosphere inside is like. Is it crowded? Are people wearing masks? Would I feel calm going inside for 10 minutes? We may not be able to dictate what safety measure are in place, but learning about what our usual places are doing to keep us safe can take some of the fear out of visiting them for the first time.
- Maintain (safe) social connections
Our family and friends can give us a great deal of peace during times of stress. Social support helps us better handle anxiety, uncertainty, and other overwhelming emotions. This does not necessarily mean you have to jump back into the social situations you had before COVID. Instead, take the extra time and thought to set up video calls with loved ones and discuss your feelings or meet outside in a park to begin socializing (safely) with others.
- Set your boundaries and be respectful of others’ boundaries
We all live in different circumstances and therefore will have different boundaries when it comes to staying safe. For example, if someone in your home is pregnant or over the age of 65, you might decide to be more cautious than someone who has no high risk family members. Know what you’re comfortable with and keep firm. If you want to see some friends or family, discuss your boundaries with them so you can ensure you’re on the same page before you get there. If you find that others aren’t respecting your boundaries, do not be afraid to tell them! Ignoring or suppressing these feelings in order to be polite or avoid making them feel uncomfortable will only heighten your anxiety and potentially cause negative feelings towards them that may last even after you have said goodbye. Respect your own boundaries as well as those of the ones around you!
- Take it slow…. Or not!
Everyone is going to adjust differently so do it at your own pace! If you want to start small, take a walk around the block and see how you feel. Next time maybe you go a little farther or venture into a store that doesn’t have too many people. Or, you could be the kind of person who wants to jump right in, like a child in a pool facing their fear. Rip the band aid off and (with the proper safety precautions) see those friends you’ve been putting off or run the errand that you’ve been avoiding. You know yourself best so think about what will work best for you and get to it!
- Do NOT neglect your mental health!
I cannot stress this one enough. As parents, our mental health can directly affect your children. After all, how can we take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves? No we’re not perfect and no one expects you to be! But taking the time to care for your mental health in addition to your physical health can make a world of difference to you and your family. Start with taking breaks when you need them and leaning on those around you when you can. Try some mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or counting slowly back from ten when you’re met with an especially stressful moment. When informal strategies don’t work, do NOT be afraid to ask for help! There are professionals who can help manage the anxiety of re-entering society and help you get yourself back on track. Many professionals are covered by insurance or offer affordable services both in-person or via teletherapy! It is just as necessary to ask for help with your mental health as it is to ask a doctor to help with your physical health.
We may be living in a new normal, but anxiety does not have to be part of it!