How to handle the new normal coming out of quarantine
We've heard the same buzzwords the past year over and over again: "the new normal," "unprecedented times," "amidst the pandemic," etc. While the language may seem redundant, it's entirely true. Life will never be the same again after a worldwide pandemic, and that's a scary thought.
However, life is moving forward. Vaccines are readily available, mask mandates are more flexible, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. With businesses reopening and society returning to some sort of normalcy, anxiety and fear are to be expected. 2020 has taught us the importance of mental health, so addressing these worries pre-emptively may help ease the transition to life after quarantine.
William Higbee LSW, therapist at our Certified Behavioral Health Clinic, and Jillian Young LPC, Program Director of School Based Clinical Services, share insight into some common worries arising as society reopens.
How can I handle social anxiety as larger gatherings begin again?
It may feel overwhelming to be around crowds of people again after a year of isolation and limited small gatherings.
"Social anxiety can trigger a desire to avoid social interactions and can lead to increased social isolation. In dealing with social anxiety, it is important to understand your triggers and challenge any negative thoughts and/or thought patterns of harm. Recognizing and honoring feelings of anxiety as protective measures can be helpful in reducing any associated guilt. Ultimately, pushing back against negative thought patterns of harm that can be induced in social situations can help to reshape new social experiences. When facing your social anxiety, having a support partner and a safety plan in case of panic can be beneficial in preparing for any crises. Ultimately, be patient and forgiving of yourself in working towards re-acclimating yourself into social situations," says Higbee.
What if I don't feel comfortable with others not wearing masks?
After wearing masks for nearly a year, they can feel like a necessary safety blanket when interacting with individuals outside of your household.
"It's normal to feel uncomfortable with others not wearing masks near you after it being the norm for almost a year. If you have the ability, distance yourself. You can also ask someone to put their mask on or pull it up appropriately. Although, this can be a sensitive topic, there are certainly strategies to ask without trying to offend. One such strategy is to be polite, discreet, and respectful. Try to speak quietly at a safe distance so only the two of you can hear. Another option is to quote the experts, sometimes people feel less threatened and it may make it less personal. Sometimes people genuinely forget or do not notice that their mask has fallen," explains Young.
How can I set boundaries as society opens again?
It's important to stand your ground and set personal boundaries that prioritize your mental well-being.
"Understanding and setting boundaries is a protective factor in preserving mental health in uncertain times. Much like exploring new territories, it's important to understand your limits, while also pushing past them in order to achieve new heights. Understanding when and where to set boundaries is a very personal process and should be decided based on your values. A values exploration is a great way to understand what you want in future situations as society opens back up and can help you recognize where you want to place your energy. Again, be considerate and forgiving of yourself as you set these boundaries and continue to check in with yourself in understanding what you would like from your next steps into society," describes Higbee.
Read more on helpful tips for adjusting after quarantine and learn some new coping skills to handle changes. If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety about life after quarantine, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.