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How do I "People" Again?

Take a minute and think about how you felt in 2020 the moment you realized that the quarantine was going to last for much more than two weeks. Perhaps you were scared, frustrated, confused, worried, angry or just generally sad? Think about how long it took you to adapt to lockdown life. We had to figure out new technology, how to maintain relationships, how to not lose our minds at home and stay busy and active. It was difficult for most of us and we were eventually able to acclimate and accept that this was how it was going to be for the foreseeable future.

Now here we are, a year and a half later, and things are opening up and returning to how things were in the “the before times,” but it will never be quite the same. We will all have to pause and think before giving a friend a hug, shaking hands is a thing of the past and face masks are a fashion staple. You’ve heard it before, we have been forever changed from this pandemic. It’s been challenging, but we adapted.

Change is hard. It’s something we all know but often forget. With everyone reintegrating into the world, that’s bound to bring up more big feelings, anxiety, sadness, fear, frustration, confusion or any number of emotions. The idea of socialization which was so commonplace is now strange and unusual. Here are some thoughts on ways to help you adapt yet again to the new, new normal.

Don’t overdo it: Try not to get so excited that you overbook yourself (or your kids) and schedule something for every moment of every weekend. Try not to feel obligated to make plans either. It is going to take time to acclimate to reentry into the world, so start slow and then build up to a level where everyone is comfortable.

Try not to completely avoid others: For the introverts out there, quarantine may have been a welcome experience and wonderful excuse. You might have been noticing your anxiety diminishing because there were fewer social pressures. Some of you may have noticed that you are more of an introvert than you initially thought. Try meeting up with one friend at a time or a small group before having to return full force into the world to give yourself practice socializing again. Effective socialization is a skill and just like anything else, it takes consistent practice.

Figure out your new schedule: If you have to return to the office in person or school in person, start shifting your schedule according to what your new day will look like. Implement good habits now so they are easier to do once you are back to your old schedule. Oh, and get used to putting on pants. Make sure you have some that fit after the quarantine 15!

Know your appetite for risk: Be aware of your anxiety if you feel a situation is too risky for you health-wise. Communicate your needs to others and know that they might attempt to convince you to do something outside of your COVID Comfort Zone. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel something is safe.

Go easy on yourself: accept that what you are feeling is ok and address it head on. Recognize that our feelings are telling us something about our experiences and rather than pushing them away, acknowledge, pay attention to and validate them. We have had to be extremely flexible in the last year and a half to survive. Try to continue to be flexible with yourself and not be too hard on yourself if you are having trouble with the change.

Go easy on others: this is a good time to be observant and notice the behavior of others. Is your partner acting strange or different? Are your kids acting out or shutting down? We all react differently to change. Validate the feelings of your partner and name the emotions for your children to help them understand better what is happening internally. Know that everyone requires a different amount of time to adjust to new schedules and environments.

Welcome back everyone, it’s nice to see people’s smiles and chins again. Let’s continue to support one another so we can all get through this change together.


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