Life for all of us changed in more ways than one. Month after month, our levels of tolerance and resilience continue to be challenged. For some, life became simpler as a result of the new boundaries put in place. Those who constantly battled FOMO or social anxiety seemed to appreciate the decrease in pressure and comfort provided by societal constraints of Covid-19. Others experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression as they watched their connections, roles, and structure diminish.
Most had to abruptly adjust their work schedules and environments and reconfigure their duties as parents. Daily rhythms that were once predictable were no longer accessible. Tasks that were once simple required more attention and creativity. Throughout it all, we clutched onto hope and repeatedly attempted to adopt new sources of connection and validation.
Conflicts triggered by long standing issues around social injustice and politics intensely erupted between families, friends, and communities. Some used these opportunities to grow and challenged their level of self-awareness, while others gravitated to those that aligned with their views in order to maintain a source of safety and validation.
As a whole, the country is opening up and as a result many are experiencing what I like to call the ‘Pandemic Hangover.’ Over the last year or so, even the individuals with the highest levels of self-awareness, were forced to place certain feelings and thoughts on hold as a means for survival.
As more opportunities arise and social connections are not as restricted, many become more hopeful and acquire a sense of relief. This shift can also be accompanied by new anxieties, fabricated sources of danger, or depression. Unresolved issues and emotions have an opportunity now to resurface or push through defenses and disrupt the calm. It might be challenging to identify where these intense feelings derive, especially when relief and hope are on the rise. The mind and body are using this opportunity, this state of calm, to dispose of what has been pushed down and disregarding in the midst of psychological survival. There is space for these feelings now and unfortunately it can feel like an unwelcomed, confusing tidal wave of emotion.
Currently, society is trying to return to or access what was once ‘normal.’ Whether it is returning to work or reconfiguring (yet again) how we interact and care for our family, friends, and coworkers. We need to be mindful of how our energy is expended and rejuvenated. The simplicities or perhaps the comfort of the built-in boundaries are diminishing. It is now up to individuals to create new ones or protect the ones we now value. This requires families and companies to re-evaluate what needs to be put in place to foster connection, progress, and support. This is a unique opportunity. A chance to reset and prioritize mental health as we redefine how to mindfully persevere and ‘show up’ for life.
I have noticed that many of my clients and friends are experiencing anxiety and exhaustion in new ways. They are now being triggered by experiences that used to be second nature or even calming before. Driving, socializing in-person, being unmasked, leaving their pets, and seeing shifts in their family support systems are examples of the triggers they are navigating. The confidence to care for themselves or reintegrate seems daunting and overwhelming. They feel the pressure to expand their circles which at times poses a threat and challenges the co-dependences that were developed during quarantine as a means for survival.
This is not only affecting adults, but teens and children as well. People are socially ‘out of shape’ and need to build our stamina back by gaining reps. Social events that once were a source of fun and rejuvenation before the pandemic may now feel draining and uncomfortable. Work or relationships may change simply because of where they are now taking place.
To execute this task in a healthy way, we must find the balance of taking positive risks while creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. These shifts require self-check-ins to understand how we expend and gain our energy and motivation. Saying ‘no’ and opting out of certain events or social opportunities needs to be viewed as a positive practice. A step that requires self-reflection and prevents people-pleasing, but not to consistently avoid and provide a false sense of security.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions.
What have I learned about myself and what I need?
Where do I find support and feel a connection?
Do I seek validation mainly from others or do I also look inward?
What roles or experiences do I truly want to allow back into my life and why?
What do I want to preserve and keep sacred?
Remember to give yourself grace as you move through yet another transition. Be deliberate as you create YOUR new normal.