Adjusting to the new normal: COVID, vaccines, and a virtual ride
Our nation seems to be in a race between getting vaccines in as many of us as possible – the iconic “shots in arms” everyone is talking about – and the development of yet more insidious, infectious and potentially dangerous variants of the COVID-19 virus.
For some of us, vaccines mean the end of the pandemic – and of our personal quarantine. They are pinpoints of light at the end of a long tunnel.
But here’s the rub – for some, that’s not a pretty picture.
I was reading an article about this on Thing: Opinion, Analysis and Essays by Maggie Mulqueen, and she puts it succinctly: “When the merry-go-round of our lives stopped last spring, some people felt comfortable with the pace of life for the first time. Now the ride is starting again.”
Sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those people.
I want to preface this by saying that I know I am privileged – that I work in a field I can easily do remotely (and which is actually AMAZING when done virtually), that I have a husband and two sons who live with me so there is community and comfort in my home, and that I have the resources to make the pandemic and subsequent quarantine workable.
However, this last year has really brought out my introvert side, and, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I enjoyed parts of it a great deal. It was great having the pace of life slow – great not having to run around and do things. Great to wear yoga pants to the “office.” Great not feeling like I had to socialize, engage in small talk to shop, to do many of the things I did in the “normalcy” of 2019 and earlier.
This pandemic has certainly been an unmitigated disaster for many – those who have lost their lives, loved ones, jobs, financial security, and so on. However, homebodies like me loved part of being forced to stay home. For a time, it was enjoyable to focus on our families, self-care, and hobbies that just don’t fit in our normal life pace. During the pandemic, I baked bread again, which I haven’t done in years. I started a garden again. My family and myself found more family time. My husband and I enjoyed more moments of togetherness.
While some people spent the quarantine doing destructive things – problems such as substance abuse increased for instance – many others spent the time creating good and healthy habits like exercise and sobriety.
It’s been a mixed bag, and we’ll likely be talking about the pandemic – and understanding the impact of it – for many years to come.
Another odd aspect of this unique time – we are partly out of this, but there’s a good way yet to go to herd immunity and full “normalcy” – is the angst of actually resuming our former lives. Many of us have reflected that we want our lives moving forward to be different.
And some have a great deal of anxiety attached to the end of quarantine. It seems counter-intuitive, since we’ve all chaffed a bit under regulations, but removing them bring their own anxiety, too.
How will we manage? What will be the new rules? What do I do if I don’t want to socialize, or if I don’t feel safe? So many questions and so few answers at this point. For those whose personalities were actually suited to the slower pace of quarantine, these can be anxiety-producing issues.
In fact, I think we might find that we will all be happy with less in the future – maybe the slower pace we’ve had for the past year will help us to slow down a bit when we don’t have to. We may actually, many of us, prefer to move a little slower and more deliberately.
We can help ourselves and others adjust to the new normal by:
Minimizing shaming others over any part of their pandemic response – you do you, and I’ll do me. Each of us is allowed to choose for ourselves, and we need to stop picking apart others’ choices. The responses to the last year were many and varied, and it’s important people be valued for their healthy choices, even if they are not what you would choose.
Encourage each other to resume our social calendars at a pace that works for each of us. And be understanding of those who feel differently than you.
Help your friends and loved ones reengage in ways that have meaning for you and for them. Don’t insist that they do all the things they formerly did but find low-risk options that work for both of you.
Reflect. How was the pandemic actually good for you? What did you learn? What do you want to keep and what to discard? Self-reflection is nearly always valuable and can give you important insight into yourself that can help you live a better life, post-pandemic.
Pick and choose what you learned during the quarantine and now want to keep. For instance, if you got up early for the past year to exercise, that could be a good habit to continue. What self-care did you do that fed your soul and could come forward with you into the future?
Express gratitude. What can you genuinely give thanks for at this moment? Continue to practice this as you move to more normalcy.
Learn to be present in the blessings of the moment. I’ve had so many people talk about what they will do, when … Be present and mindful when life opens up for you, and enjoy every moment, remembering times that they were not possible. Hug hard. Talk long. Love a lot. Connect. Meaningfully engage with others.
If you are anxious about the pandemic, life in general or the reopening process, please give us a call. We are experts in helping you live your best life, now and in the future.
At Sanctuary Christian Counseling we help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection.
Sanctuary Christian Counseling
9974 Molly Pitcher Highway Suite 4
Shippensburg, PA 17257