Transitioning Out of the Pandemic
During the fever-dream that is the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us experienced disproportionate levels of loss, turmoil, and stress. Individually, each circumstance challenges our capacity to cope but combined they can disable our ability to transition out of survival mode. As we embrace our collective re-emergence into the new “normal,” it’s important that we process how the last year impacted our mental health and implement strategies for a healthy transition back into the world.
Put simply, the extended quarantine imposed by coronavirus had an unfamiliar and widespread impact. It separated us from our loved ones, routines and sense of safety. This type of isolation is known to increase the risk of psychological harm for anyone but especially existing vulnerable populations (Kim and Bhullar, 2020). This includes minority and low-income communities as well as those battling existing mental health diagnoses. The development of mental health setbacks during COVID presented the struggle of coping in the midst of restrictions, shortages, and racial injustice that likely amplified triggers and feelings of hopelessness. While the worst of the pandemic has receded, the impact of the virus is far from over. Research supports the commonality of avoidance and protective behaviors continuing for months after a quarantine (Kim and Bhullar, 2020).
Many of us are eager to get back to our lives post-pandemic. However, like an open wound, bad habits and past/present trauma will continue to bleed into our experiences until we get treatment for them to heal. Consider the internal/external triggers and coping mechanisms you’ve developed in response to adversity in your life. Do these responses cultivate personal freedom and joy or reinforce fear? Whether good, bad, or indifferent, these practices have helped you remain resilient. However, your mind and body cannot flourish in constant survival mode.Getting therapy is not just for problems. It is a resource and safe space to process thoughts, feelings, and experiences that we often don’t make time for. If you’re struggling mentally or emotionally, therapy can bridge the gap between surviving and thriving.
Below are a few practical considerations to help you manage your personal, social, and professional expectations as you transition into the post-COVID world.
Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after meetups
Own your feelings; Advocating for yourself is not unreasonable.
Remember that you are not obligated to engage in conversation about sensitive topics.
Ease your way back into it:
Though you may be eager to reconnect with loved ones and peers, you may find that your social battery operates at a lower capacity.
Take care of yourself ahead of time by practicing self-care and prioritization.
Be cautious of burnout symptoms such as excessive fatigue, apathy or lack of motivation.
Create a social calendar to avoid taking on too much at once.
Be kind to yourself, leverage social support and ask for help if you need it:
Be open about your experiences and feelings without comparing them to the next person.
Don’t normalize your trauma. It’s okay to experience anxiety, depression, or feelings of being overwhelmed, but these should not be your baseline.
Don't wait until you’re at your limit before reaching out for help. If you find yourself spiraling into negative thoughts and behaviors, reach out to a healthcare professional.
Kim, U., & Bhullar, N. (2020). Life in the pandemic: Social isolation and mental health. https://onlinelibrary. wiley. com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/jocn. 15290. Chicago
Wakefield, J. C., Horwitz, A. V., & Schmitz, M. F. (2005). Are we overpathologizing the socially anxious? Social phobia from a harmful dysfunction perspective. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(6), 317-319.