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Moving Forward: Ease into the New Normal

June 12, 2020


Moving Forward: Ease into the New Normal

As you return to some of your usual routines during the COVID-19 pandemic, take time to consider your options and care for your mental health.

Stress and anxiety run high in uncertain times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception.

It's unclear how long the coronavirus will be a threat, and many find the uncertainty distressing. Everyday activities like going to the grocery store or pharmacy have become tense as we try to distance ourselves from fellow shoppers and protect ourselves from surfaces where the virus might be.

As stay-at-home orders are lifted, you'll likely have choices to make when it comes to restarting normal routines. WellSpan Philhaven Clinic Director Adam Miller, LMFT, shares some keys to a healthy mental approach as we reintroduce ourselves to normal daily activities.

For starters, he suggests not saying “yes” to every opportunity that pops up as more restrictions are lifted. "One of my concerns is that out of feeling socially deprived for the past several months, some of us may be drawn to overbook ourselves. We may find it difficult to decline an invitation to anything, whether it's a barbecue, small group activities at church, a long weekend away, or a coffee date with an old friend," Miller explains.

"Each of these things is good and positive in and of itself, but saying 'yes' to every opportunity is going to leave you feeling run down, overly stressed, and ultimately more prone to physical issues."

Miller also points out the flip side, where one might experience fear or stress about approaching normal routines again. "I expect some of us to struggle to reengage out of fear of sickness or because of a surge in what was already considerable social anxiety," he says. "My advice to everyone is, of course, to follow state and local guidelines for engaging in activities safely, but most importantly to follow your own instincts about what feels right and energizing for you at this time."

Make Conscious Choices

Miller also recommends taking a personal inventory of which activities are worth bringing back into your life, and which new habits you may want to continue. For example, while quarantined, some of us may have reconnected with hobbies, such as playing a musical instrument or keeping a journal, that we had gotten away from in recent years. Others may have seized the opportunity to develop an at-home workout routine.

"Take some time to think about whether new habits or hobbies are a greater source of joy for you than going back to your pre-pandemic book club or softball team," Miller says.

Expect a range of emotions through transitions related to COVID-19. This is especially true for health-care workers and first responders, who likely got through the past few months by compartmentalizing and putting their feelings aside so that they could function moment by moment at work.

"Treat yourself with gentleness and grace because none of us has ever been through anything like this before," Miller says. "It's not as though just because we can have a cookout in the park or go to dinner and a movie, the crisis is over. We're all still coping with what we've been through in a lot of different ways."

Visit WellSpanPhilhaven.org for more information on the programs and services offered.