Struggling with Lifts in COVID Restrictions?
6 Tips for Transitioning into Summer 2021
It was a Sunday afternoon in May, and the finicky New England weather was cooperating, like a toddler that finally puts on their shoes to leave the home. The air was a perfect 71 degrees and it was the type of sunny that you needed sunglasses to drive on the highway to see your next exit. I was meeting a good friend for lunch in Mystic, CT at one of my favorite restaurants on the water. We have not hugged one another in over a year. More than 365 days without even coming within one foot of each other. Meeting someone for lunch, something that was so commonplace for me before 2020, was now a big freaking deal.
As I drove into town I saw out of my periphery groups of people on the sidewalks going in and out of the quaint bookstores, donut shops, and consignment boutiques.
My heart was racing.
I felt the flutter of excitement, confusion, and fear from seeing so many people gathered together.
My state was starting to lift COVID restrictions including mask-wearing.
Some people had masks and some did not. But it echoed life pre-COVID and my body had a visceral response to it.
I thought to myself, is this safe?
Will I be able to relax and trust enough that this is OK to do without getting sick? Are things actually getting better?
Can we just stop for a hot minute to process and debrief about the dumpster fire that was 2020 before moving onto the next chapter?
I need a moment y’all.
I arrived before my friend and noticed what it felt like in my body to take off my mask indoors and look around at “real” people’s faces in public. It felt surreal. When she arrived I made sure to get my 20-second hug (because that’s the amount of time science says it takes for us to get the feel-good hormones from hugs and I like science). Immediately, we both verbalized how bizarre and yet hopeful this all felt. We also laughed about “Can we just pause before moving forward to just acknowledge how taxing this all has been?” I knew I wasn’t alone.
For some of my clients, when they experienced personal trauma and/or loss, their world felt like it stopped. It was changed in an instance. A snap of the finger and suddenly they felt unsafe, unable to trust, and fearful of what could come next. Despite this, other people in their lives were unable to or blatantly refused to bear witness to what happened. They simply carried on with their lives, wholly unimpacted. This is an extremely isolating feeling and often creates additional trauma.
For some people, moving back into a world that is not under constant direct threat of a deadly plague is going to bring to the surface just how traumatic 2020 was. Especially if they are seeing a lot of people gleefully booking vacations, having large social gatherings, and returning back to “normal life” seemingly relatively unaffected on the surface. Because they were trying to keep their heads above water in 2020 and now there is the sight of a shoreline in 2021. They may realize just how exhausted they have become from treading water for so long. They may doubt their energetic availability to
sprint to shore and get their “land-legs” and even have become quite acclimated to learning how to survive in the ocean.
If you have found that the transition back into (somewhat) “normal life" has introduced a whole new set of challenges, fears, desires, and mixed feelings, please know that you are not alone.
It is OK to take a breather and take inventory of the water that you have been swimming in.
It is OK not to rush to the shoreline.
It is OK to carry fear, grief, and hesitancy into this transition.
It is OK to float on your back for a while to catch your breath. In fact, that's what you should do when you get too tired from swimming.
It is OK to talk about all of your range of experiences, beliefs, and feelings with trusted people.
Here Are 6 Tips to Support You During This Transition:
Create time and space to process 2020. This can be in therapy, with friends and loved ones, and/or in a journal dedicated to taking inventory of what you have gained, lost, feared, and hoped for.
Allow yourself to take your time with making informed decisions about who, what, when, and where you feel comfortable.
Respect other’s processes and check in about preferences and comfort levels with mask-wearing when you spend time together. If you are OK without a mask but a friend is not, wearing one out of respect for them shows a commitment to the relationship.
Keep your boundaries clear and in check when it comes to your personal decisions about spending time with people that are not vaccinated. Relationships may change because of this and you should be aware of this challenge.
Listen to your body. So much of our stress and trauma is stored in our bodies. Simple check-ins to just notice your heart rate, muscle tension, and where emotions are showing up supports staying in a “window of tolerance.”
When you are ready, start gradually acclimating yourself to going out into the world in a way that feels safe for you. Grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, hiking trails, etc. Allow yourself to check in with yourself or a support person before, during and after if you have a particularly high level of anxiety with social situations.
Sending you validation, support, and hope for wherever you are at in this transition process,