Have you been feeling a bit weird?
It’s O.K, this is normal. These are weird times and if you’ve been experiencing conflicting emotions, happy one moment, frustrated the next, you’re not alone.
As we slowly edge towards “living with Covid” as it’s so delightfully called, our shackles are gradually being removed. Lockdowns are being lifted, some borders reopened, and those living on the Eastern seaboard are now returning to working in an office and socialising with friends and family.
So, why is it that you can feel so excited and happy about regaining your freedoms and yet quite anxious about mixing with other people again?
It’s because even though you may have found the restrictions and required compliances a trial, you responded, and created a new way of doing. These new habits became your “new normal” and now it’s time to let go of these and reintroduce some of your former habits.
This can be hard.
How have you been feeling?
One mother I spoke with this week shared her biggest concern currently, is how best to help her child who is struggling with anxiety and terrified of going back to school, where there was never ever an issue with attending school before.
Others have expressed ongoing concern about mixing more freely with the public, even though they themselves are double vaxxed.
While several people have shared how they plan to take things slowly. They love having the freedom to go out, but at present prefer keeping social contact small and intermittent.
Research from NASA looking into the impact of prolonged social isolation in space and studies by Kimberley Norris and others examining the impact of prolonged periods of deployment in Antarctica affects their re-integrate into regular society. It’s been shown that the initial joy and excitement of the “re-union” phase typically lasts up to three months after which they shift into “re-integration” which can last anywhere between 3 months to one year or longer.
What does this mean?
That how quickly you feel “back to normal” after coming out of lockdown may take longer than you expect. Adjusting out of lockdown is going to be slower than the initial adjustments made to working from home, homeschooling and living with social and physical restrictions.
Here are five ways to help along the way.
1. Give yourself time.
If the thought of going back to the office or mixing with a few people is freaking you out, then a graded return might suit you better. If pizza at home with a glass of wine shared with a couple of friends sounds enough that’s a great place to start.
2. Lower your expectations.
If you’ve already decided you don’t want to return to the frenetic pace of life you were living pre-Covid, how will you stop yourself from slipping back?
Getting back up to speed cognitively after a prolonged spell away from the previous working environment can feel draining. It’s hard enough when returning to work after just a two-week holiday! Coming back after several months or more in lockdown is going to feel not only strange but hard. This is where creating greater self-awareness of your energy levels and giving yourself permission to do less along with several mental breather across your working day can help to reduce that cognitive fatigue.
3. Tap into your sensory intelligence.
You may already relate to being more of an extrovert or introvert. It’s not that either is right or wrong this can determine your preferred type of working environment. If you’re someone who likes the buzz and the noise of a busy workplace, you may relish the thought of being back in the office. If your preference is to work in a quiet environment with fewer people, you may prefer to pursue the option of working from home.
4. Reconnect to what gives you joy.
Having fun, making time to relax and play is a great way to reduce mental stress and tension and can reduce some of the social anxiety you might be experiencing. If you love spending time in nature, getting out for a hike, booking a short trip for a break away or just sitting watching the ocean on your own, with your significant other or close friend is very relaxing and comforting.
5. Reconnect to those who mean the most.
If you’ve not been able to see your immediate family for a while, spending time together, catching up on things, talking about what’s been happening in your respective worlds will serve to strengthen those relationships. Catching up with your best friend (s) builds happiness, raises coping skills and resilience. Your social support network is just as important now as it was during the periods of lockdown.
Weird times? Yes.
But if you’re ever questioned your ability to handle times of adversity and stress, I’m sure you know by now that you are (and always have been) far more resilient than you ever gave yourself credit for.
Let’s celebrate our tenacity and ability to adapt and thrive.
And please get yourself fully vaccinated if you haven’t done so already.
What have you planned to help you ease back into life at large?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about in your workplace, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.