After months of isolation we are beginning to emerge again. The patios are beginning to open and many of us are vying for appointments with our hairdresser. Transit and traffic are getting busier, and the hustle and bustle is just beginning again. Some of us are excited about the return of valued services and social opportunities while others are fearful and mourn the loss of our quiet and reflective time. This is a time of embracing restored freedoms and dealing with anxious feelings about what will come next.
- First of all – accept that there will be mixed feelings.
There will be anxiety and excitement all mixed in together during this time. We have been yearning to resume our activities and see friends and family again. But we are still afraid and unsure of the unknown and how much in-person interaction we should be doing. We are just beginning to test how this increased freedom will play out. So much remains unknown at this point. It is natural to experience ambivalence during this time of re-emergence. Mixed feelings are healthy and makes sense given the circumstances. Experiencing anxiety and excitement are a part of us moving forward one thoughtful step at a time.
- Accept Anxiety as normal.
Increased anxiety right now makes sense. We need to be paying attention to information as it arises and then discern that information and plan as we go. The virus is tricky. It is an invisible threat and the reality is we do not have a vaccination yet. We have made great strides in lowering the curve, but we do not know how this increased social interaction will play out. It is normal to feel anxious as we are losing a bit of control and there is a lack of certainty. When it was just one household, we knew what level of exposure we were dealing with. As in-person contact increases, we also have to pay attention to the exposure levels of others as well – and this is not something we can control.
- Be cautious, without being flooded by anxiety.
Anxiety is built into humans for a reason – to warn us of danger. Unfortunately, anxiety can also get in the way of keeping us safe. If our internal alarm bell is ringing all the time, then we can miss the danger zones. We need to manage our alarm bell so we can stay calm, stay kind, and make thoughtful decisions.
- Practice mindfulness.
Some deep breathing, grounding exercises and mindfulness can help us pay attention and make healthy informed choices. Limit exposure to the news, pay attention to how we consume drugs or alcohol and engage in other distractions. These things can worsen your mental and physical health in the long term. Make health routines a habit and allow exercise and self care to assist with your well-being in the long term.
- Be prepared for the backlog of feelings that emerge with us.
Everyone has experienced losses (job, sense of security, life as we know it, some have lost loved ones, and some have lost their lives). We have not been able to grieve these losses properly individually or collectively – so expect a wave of grief to emerge. Be prepared for these difficult feelings so they do not take you by surprize. Allow yourself some time and space to grieve – and make time and space for others as they grieve.
- Be aware of your tolerance level.
Things remain uncertain and there are no safety nets. The reality is that different activities and interactions range from low risk to high risk, and we each need to assess how much risk are we willing to take. Establish your own boundaries. Do not pressure others and respect their personal boundaries. Stay conscious of any judgments you have and try not to get too judgmental with others as this is not going to help you or them. When in doubt default to safety and keep conscious of the safety of others.
- Take things one step at a time.
We cannot bounce back from this right away. It will be good for our mental health, and also our physical health, to try not to re-emerge all at once. We can incorporate the learning we have experienced and continue to do some things better – using online platforms for business and socializing, having a slower pace in life and spending more quality time together with those we care for. The need to go slowly does encourage us to be mindful and make more deliberate choices. We should not be returning to all of our old behaviors immediately. Take the time to think about how this experience has built resiliency in you and can contribute to positive growth in who you are as a person and how you treat those and the world around you.