The world around us has opened up and everything seems to be trying to get back to normal. But it is perfectly reasonable that the fear that has nested inside us prevents us from looking towards the future. Experts explain how to manage this stress.
Fifteen months ago we felt time freeze. Our everyday lives were confined to the home, our lives were moved to Zoom, and even visiting the supermarket was a high-risk activity. But how much have we changed during this time? Life is getting back to normal, but are we ready enough to find our old selves again?
The answer is that we cannot be like before. The signs of this pandemic have shaped us and are affecting us even in things that we cannot comprehend. Testimonies from survivors of the 1918 flu report that they never got over that pandemic, developing fears that stayed with them for the rest of their lives. Although they survived they could not overcome the fact that they lost relatives and friends to a flu.
So far, 3,782,490 deaths from Covid-19 have been confirmed worldwide. We can’t think that we are the same in relation to January 2020. The long-awaited return to normality has begun, workers are gradually returning to their jobs, tourism has restarted, the first holiday plans are being made.
Reality seems to have two sides. A survey carried out in May in the US showed that 39% of employees are considering quitting if their employer is not flexible with telecommuting. “Teleworking has created new conditions. Families now had lunch together, many found time for activities that had not fit into the schedule until now, started new studies and hobbies, took care of a pet. Perhaps they saw their rhythms become more relaxed. People stopped wasting time on business trips or long meetings and got to know each other better. The pandemic has shown that remote work is entirely feasible for many industries, confirming that the old work model no longer works, is time-consuming, costly, and often forces workers to choose between their wellness and their careers,” writes Sigal Samuel for Vox.
So why return to this old normality that now seem useless?
No one will miss the virus, nor the isolation, fear and stress it brought to our lives. But getting out of the safety net we’ve been hiding in for so long is a big step now that can be stressful. Maybe we’ve changed a lot in that time and we’re not ready to change again.
“I’ve been sober for a year and I’m worried about the pressure of having to go out drinking again.” “This time cleared up relationships that I don’t think I need anymore in my life.” “Dating will go back to traditional methods of dating. What will be my excuse as a single person then?”, are just some of the thoughts that people around us are expressing. “An analogous situation that I share with my patients and the public is returning from war. Both the soldiers and their families were waiting for this moment of return, but the transition to everyday life had many challenges. In fact, 4 out of 10 veterans have reported that returning home after the war was very difficult,” explains Luana Marques, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She also notes that 40% of Americans have felt their mental health to be shaken during this time.
Getting back to normality for many also means dealing with pain and trauma, the loss of the people who have passed away, the jobs that have also been lost. The world looks a lot more uncertain than it did in 2019 and we can’t turn a blind eye to that. But what we can do is treat each other with empathy and patience. “The anxious human being will find a way to look towards the future again, and this perhaps creates an anxiety within us. But every time we feel this anxiety taking over us, let’s focus on the present and what we are experiencing now. Try adding exercise to your life, meditate, talk to friends, start a creative activity. Over time the mind learns to manage very stressful situations and seek calmness,” explains clinical psychologist and author of the book Joy From Fear Carle Marie Manly.
We enter this new age as new versions of ourselves and are not obliged to repeat patterns that never suited us. The trauma left in our souls by this difficult period will not disappear overnight. What we can do is keep all these lessons we learned during this journey. The future is right here and that’s all we have to manage.