How to Get Back Into the Community After Getting Vaccinated, Even If You’re Not Sure If You’re Ready

The vaccine was meant to mean that the US has left behind the worst depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many of us, it hardly feels like we are out of the woods.

Aside from the growing threat of the highly contagious variant of Delta and the corresponding return of indoor mask demands , there are slow social, emotional and psychological repercussions of the past 15 months that need to be dealt with. This means that while going back to things like partying, flying, and the rest of life outside of our bubbles of isolation can be a joyous experience, it can also be overwhelming.

“Oddly enough, I think people are really exhausted,” says Anna Sale, host and co-founder of the WNYC Death, Sex & Money podcast and author of Let’s Talk About the Hard Things. “The idea of ​​restarting, rebirth, is a general sense of anticipation and pressure to get back there and go beyond your energy level as well as your level of interest.”

For many, the club’s abrupt reopening this summer may have added an additional layer of internal conflict. “I think a lot of people feel almost gasped because we just move forward and act like we didn’t,” says Amanda White, LPC, Founder and Clinical Director of Therapy for Women in Philadelphia. “And a lot has changed.”

If you’re struggling with grief, changing relationships, or having difficulty finding a new balance after a long period of fear, isolation, and isolation, here’s how to approach the process without increasing your current stress levels.

Count your habits and start slowly

From work to exercise to socializing, almost everyone’s daily routines have turned upside down in the past year, and the process of restoring a “new normal” may seem like a completely fresh start. Rather than taking an aggressive all-or-nothing approach, experts advise taking it slow.

“I think small, sustainable goals are really underestimated,” White says. “I recommend practicing doing a few things you’re used to doing with an open mind instead of packing up every weekend night. Experimenting and trying different things while keeping room for your emotions will help you navigate the process so we don’t burn out. ”

White adds: “I’ve seen people rush to do absolutely everything, and I don’t recommend it. I think that we do not have the tolerance to which we are accustomed, and this is something that will need to be restored again. “

In many ways, this is a good time to take stock of which parts of your life before the pandemic you would like to reintegrate, and which – again.

“With COVID and lockdowns, our environment has changed, so our habits have changed, and now, going back to the past, people will strive to revive their habits, both good and bad,” says BJ Fogg, Stanford behavioral scientist and author of Tiny Habits. “Sit back and list the habits you once had but lack, and decide which ones you would like to revive. Start with maybe three of them and bring them back into your new routine. “

Fogg suggests making any habit as easy as possible, whether it’s exercising for 10 minutes instead of an hour, or experimenting with several new versions of your desired routine before settling on the one you like best and are most likely to stick to.

Conversely, this moment can serve as an opportunity to break out of old patterns forever.

“Maybe you’re back to work now, you’re invited to cocktail hour, and you don’t want to go back to it,” says Fogg. “Make a game plan for this scenario and say something truthful, like,“ During the pandemic, I changed my course of action, I could have come, but I’m not going to drink, or I would like to hang out ”with you, but not in such an environment “.

Fogg adds, “Try it and don’t expect to be perfect. The thing is, it might sound a little scary and strange because you’ve never been here before, but now is a great time to take control of your habits. “

Work with your body, not against it

Even if you emerge from the pandemic with intact health, your body may not feel or work as it did two years ago, and for many people it has become difficult to navigate these changes.

“There are many concerns about the world reopening,” says Chrissy King, fitness and strength trainer and creator of the Body Liberation Project. “People always feel oversensitive to their bodies in the summer, and they reappear and see people they haven’t seen for a long time, or pull out summer clothes that no longer fit – all people’s fears are exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Experts say that instead of jumping on a whole new diet or exercise regimen, focus on helping your body feel better after a long period of stress.

“I think the main thing is to say, ‘I’ll wake up and listen to what my body needs today,” King says. “You can have a plan, but you can also wake up every day and listen to yourself. If your body requires rest, allow that flexibility to build on what is truly enjoyable every day. ”

And instead of fighting a pair of overly tight shorts that you hope to fit in again, King suggests buying new clothes that fit your current body and redefining the cultural notion that bodies never change or wobble.

“Bodies change, and our relationship with our body changes from day to day,” King says. “I always focus on how I can show compassion in this moment and talk to myself as if I were my best friend.”

Talk to your people

If you’ve come out of isolation with a distinct feeling that many of your closest relationships are not quite where you left them, you are far from alone. To get back on the same page with people close to you, empathy and direct communication are key.

“Make it clear that you have good intentions and want to stay in touch,” says Ann Friedman, co-author of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and co-author of Big Friendship: How We Support Each Other with friend and co-author Aminatou Sow. “And lead openly and transparently, even if you cannot fully describe the feeling. It’s about the emotional risk that lets the person you care about know what’s really going on with you. “

It might look like starting a conversation about issues that have become the subject of disagreements between the two of you during the pandemic (for example, completely different approaches to security), checking on a friend who may be having difficulties, or openly talking about your own problems.

“I try to be in control of what happens to me and when I feel unstable, which is the signal for the type of conversation I want to have – we don’t just need to compare how prosperous we are,” Sale says. “Talking about it will also give you permission, for example if you refuse to reply to a message, go back and say, ‘Sorry, I still don’t know how to do this! “”

If you are unsure of how to start a conversation with a friend or loved one you think might be having difficulty, again, it is helpful to start small. “I often say something like, ‘I was thinking about you, how are you,’ or ‘I was thinking about you,’” says Sale. “If I have signs that they were stressed, I could say,“ I was thinking about the last time we spoke and you mentioned it, how were you? “You show that you really care and listened the last time they spoke without saying,” I notice that you feel like you are not good at things. ” Nobody wants to hear it in these words. “

Focusing on smaller topics rather than global discussions can also help open the door to more useful conversations.

“It makes sense not to expect both of you to play ‘last season’ and take stock of everything that has happened in the past 15 months,” says Friedman. “Start where you are now and be open to each other. Specific questions such as how their day is going, what they are watching right now, what their child is doing this summer. If you hold an informed opinion and keep asking questions from there, you can usually learn a lot about what the past 15 months have been like for you. “

Give yourself a place to grieve and rest

At a time when it’s too easy to feel outside pressure to return to “normal,” experts recommend the most consistent thing to do: give yourself and others time and empathy to be where you are right now.

“There has been so much grief in the past year and a half,” White says. “It’s either grief that we think of in the traditional sense, the loss of loved ones, or grief over other things we’ve lost, be it a high school graduation or a birthday that you can’t come back and celebrate in the same way. Loss of work, loss of friendship, even loss of who we were before the pandemic. “

The lack of social gatherings and rituals that usually help us cope with loss makes it even more difficult to deal with these feelings.

“Being with people is what we grieve over and over again, and it really couldn’t have happened,” White says. “There is a lot of pressure to have a wonderful summer and get back to everything, but it’s also okay to be sad right now and not be fully prepared to do it all again.”

Talking to loved ones and journaling can help you begin to get over these more difficult feelings, White said. “Anything you can do to slow down and feel your emotions will help.”

If you have the funds, it might be time to consider seeking professional help. “I believe many of us can benefit from therapy and you don’t need a diagnosis to benefit from it,” White says. “Generally, if you are trying to do something but are unable to do it, this is a really good place to start with a therapist. They will help you understand why you are in trouble and find smaller actions to help you move forward. ”

Just as pushing yourself to be drawn into the outside world will be a constant part of the process of rediscovering, so will pausing, checking yourself, and making room for rest.

“I really recommend that you figure out ways to take your mind off work when you need it,” says Sale. “And also remember that if energy expenditure reduces prolonged stress or headaches, it is beneficial. Things like reminding myself that it’s good for me to go out and meet people, which seems like such a huge waste of energy, but will benefit me in the long run as it makes me feel less isolated. ”

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