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Even though we are a lot closer to the end of the covid-19 pandemic than we were at this time a year ago, it still seems like there’s a long way to go before life is normal. However, just because we can see a light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean that things are easy all the time now. In fact, many people feel their stress level rising because the return to “normal life” post-lockdown is intimidating. We’ve had to make do for a year and figure out how to make things work, and with the prospect of things returning to normal it may seem like we’re ignoring the past year. It’s hard in any situation to have your routine impacted – in fact, that’s how many people define grief. Grief can be described as the emotional experience you have when your day to day life is changed, so if you’re feeling stressed out at the idea of changing your life once again, you’re not crazy.
The pandemic has made coping with stress much trickier, because we don’t have the same access to our support systems and typical coping mechanisms.
Stress can have a dramatic effect on our well-being. When we’re chronically stressed, the way we have been over the last year of the pandemic, it’s hard to find a part of our lives that isn’t affected by stress. It can cloud every part of your day – your work, your mood, your physical health, and your relationships, to name a few.
If you’re someone who normally relieves stress by getting together with friends and talking it out, you might not be able to do that in the same way you normally do. However, with more and more people getting vaccinated, you might find that your social circle is opening back up a little. If you’re feeling stressed out by the idea of life changing once again, you’re not alone. It can feel equally stressful to face the idea of going back to our regular lives after a year away from “normal”. You might be concerned about spreading the virus to folks who don’t have access to the vaccine or who can’t get it for medical reasons right now. You might be unsure how to safely resume your activities. You might even be finding that things that you used to do no longer feel right, which can bring on its own kind of grief.
Social anxiety has also increased during the last year as we’ve all been stuck at home, afraid of contracting a deadly virus from others. Even if you’ve never felt socially anxious before, you might be feeling a twinge of it these days. We’ve all gotten used to life in a pandemic, where we can work from home, wear sweatpants 24/7, and learned how to cope in new ways. If you’re not ready for that to end, even on a subconscious level, that’s okay.
Here’s the thing to remember: we’re all going through this together. None of us knows how to navigate this, because it’s unprecedented. So make sure to be gentle with yourself and try not to judge yourself for having a reaction that is totally valid. If you’re looking for more ways to cope with the stress of life post-lockdown, here are some ideas:
Talk it out
Shame and anxiety thrive in silence, so it can be helpful to talk to someone about the way you’re feeling. Don’t try to downplay your feelings or joke them off, because whatever you are feeling about post-lockdown life is valid. You deserve to be heard. Make sure to ask whoever you’re talking to if they’re prepared to handle some emotional talk, since they might be going through a hard time too. If you’re not ready to talk to another person yet, try talking to yourself in a journal or in a mirror. It’s harder to be mean to yourself out loud versus that nagging little voice in your head. Putting a name to what you’re feeling can give you a place to start dealing with it. Therapy can also be a beneficial space to discuss what is causing you stress right now.
Take your time
Just because life is going back to normal post-lockdown doesn’t mean we have to get back to everything right away. It’s okay to assess your ‘before’ life and see what you want to bring with you into your post-pandemic life. Is there anything you’re ready to leave behind? Ways of thinking about yourself, old relationships that no longer serve you, commitments, etc. It’s okay to reassess and change things up, since you’re not the same person you were a year ago.
Decide ahead of time what your boundaries are
Everyone reacts to things differently, as we’ve seen over the past year. Some people might be more comfortable with meeting up and doing activities than others post-lockdown. If you find yourself judging others for what they’re comfortable doing right now, try to remind yourself that everyone gets to make their own choices. This includes you! If you’re worried about being able to enforce your boundaries in a post-pandemic world, take some time to decide what they are. If you’re comfortable with your boundaries and know exactly what you’re comfortable with, it will be easier to stick to them. Remember, you only need to do what works for you, so don’t keep comparing yourself to everyone around you.
Check the facts
Sometimes when anxiety is high, we jump to conclusions or panic without gathering all of the information. If you find yourself in an anxiety spiral over something, try to take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down a bit and check the facts of the situation. What’s really happening (not what you’re assuming is happening)? Is there any context you need to understand? Is this information from a reliable source? Taking the time to slow down and check what’s true can save you some distress.
Give yourself things to look forward to
What are things you’re looking forward to doing again? Are there any plans you can make now? It can be helpful to have things to look forward to, and in the last year we’ve had little cause for that. Can you plan a get together with other vaccinated friends? Can you start planning your dream post-pandemic trip? Can you visit a business that you haven’t been to in a while? Even something small can give you something fun to look forward to post-lockdown!
This past year has been really hard, and as life goes back to normal things might continue to be hard. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help if you’re struggling with life in the waning stages of the covid-19 pandemic. Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX, has experienced counselors that specialize in anxiety treatment and grief to help you process your grief over the last year and cope with the changes still to come. Call us today at (832) 413-2410 or book an online counseling appointment.