It’s incredible to think that it was just over a year and a half ago that we first started hearing about a mysterious new virus called COVID-19. Since that time the world has been completely upended by a global pandemic. Most people’s personal, community, social and working lives changed dramatically as a result.
Unfortunately, many countries are still struggling with the pandemic. But for many of us in UK Canada, and the U.S., life is slowly starting to return to something resembling “normal,” albeit with some restrictions and precautions still in place depending upon where you live.
While we may be able to gather with friends and family and resume activities that were once prohibited, we all carry the trauma of living through the fear and uncertainty of a pandemic.
Some of us fell ill, some of us lost loved ones, some of us lost jobs and struggled financially— and we all worried about how and when it would end.
In short, we have been through the wringer.
Getting back to normal — but how?
There is certainly some relief in having restrictions lifted, but there may also be some trepidation. These suggestions may help you reintegrate into daily life in the post-pandemic world:
- Know that your feelings are to be expected. We have been on high alert for more than a year, and even though taking precautions like wearing masks and staying home were restrictive, they did give us some sense of control over a situation that was largely beyond our control. Letting those measures go, even if it’s deemed safe, may feel scary for a while because we’ve come to rely on them. And that’s okay.
- Don’t be concerned if it takes time. It takes time to process traumatic experiences, and unexpected triggers can bring painful memories and feelings back to the surface from time to time. Physical and psychological symptoms of trauma can include mood swings, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, fear, feeling disconnected, fatigue, nightmares, edginess and muscle tension.1 If you find yourself feeling worse and unable to move forward after a prolonged period of time, you could be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider if you find yourself really struggling.
- Get moving. Moving your body helps it release stress by burning off adrenaline and releasing endorphins. When you’ve been in a fight or flight mode for a long time due to prolonged trauma, your body can get stuck in that state. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day can help repair your nervous system and burn off that anxious energy.2
- Stay connected. We’ve been told to stay apart for more than a year, so it might feel strange to reach out right now, but strengthening our relationships can bring us the kind of comfort that comes from being engaged with others.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a good way to combat the feelings of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Finding an opportunity that allows you to use your talents to help others is a great way to feel empowered and strong. Foresters members can easily search and sign up for Community Volunteer activities close to home by visiting MyForesters.com.
- Take good care of yourself. Fuel your body and mind with good, healthy food, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night and consider meditation or other relaxation techniques to help calm your mind.
- Go at your own pace. It’s okay if it takes you a little longer to jump back into things. Ease in if that’s what helps you feel a sense of control. And remember, you don’t have to go back to doing everything you were doing before the pandemic. Maybe having more down time is something you’ll decide you actually enjoy.
- Be patient with yourself. After all, this is the first global pandemic you’ve experienced, and there’s no rule book for how this phase should look and feel.
- Consult the experts. If you’re not sure what is or isn’t considered safe to do after you’ve been vaccinated, visit trusted sources like the CDC, Canada.ca or GOV.UK. You can reach out to your family doctor for guidance and reassurance.
- Remember that you’re resilient. You’ve coped with lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, uncertainty and more during the past year and a half. Change can be tough, but trust that you will slowly adapt to the new normal over time. However, if you do find yourself struggling, remember that help is out there.