One year ago,
after more than a month in lockdown, you yearned for a return to normalcy. However, weighing that desire against the real threat of death, you opted for safety and stayed home, many alone and in fear.
Today, 128 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, and 282 million are partially vaccinated. Mask mandates and social distancing requirements are loosening. For many, it’s a ticket to freedom. For others, to roam freely seems a scary and potentially deadly proposition.
So, the normalcy paradox emerges.
You want it and you fear it. You are having mixed feelings like excitement and reluctance, curiosity and hesitation. In my virtual therapy room, I’m hearing concerns like the following:
I’ve changed and my body has changed, how will I face my friends?
I’ve experienced a loss or a trauma. How do I tell people about it?
Can I trust that it’s safe to socialize in-person?
How will I act in a group setting?
What will I tell people I did for the last year?
All of these are valid concerns and make sense considering the unprecedented circumstances. Here are a few simple strategies you can use to ease into the transition:
Whether you decide to have coffee with a friend or return to your office, keep meetings brief and stay grounded. Use your breath as your anchor. Press your feet into the floor and breathe.
Notice how you talk to yourself about the changes.
Are your thought patterns catastrophic, overgeneralizing, or black and white? Notice the thought traps that ignite emotional reactions. Challenge them, adjust your language, soften the way you view things.
Make yourself your #1 priority.
Without self care, and healthy routines, you can’t help others anyway. Set boundaries. Be playful and prepared.
Notice if you are future or past focused.
Redirect your attention to the present. A future focus can create anxiety and a past focus, depression. Mindfully connect to your current environment. Experience the shapes, colors, textures, scents, and sounds that surround you. Use all 5 of your senses.
Remember that you are the only person you can control.
Focusing on the behavior of others can increase stress. Show up in life as the living, breathing example of how you want society to function. Be a role model.
Many of you have done deep work in the quiet moments of lockdown.
You’ve discovered new insights about yourself – your strengths and triggers, your innate resiliency. You’ve evolved in ways you didn’t imagine before. Trust the internal shifts. Take the return to normalcy step by step, one day at a time. You will shine.