As people across the country are getting vaccinated and the economy is starting to re-open after a long hiatus, many people are beginning to wonder what our new normal would look like. Some might be excited to pick up where they left off, while others may be hesitant or anxious to return to the busyness of life. Whichever the case may be for you and as we transition into our new normal, it is important to consider your mental wellbeing and to keep your mental and physical health a top priority.
It is normal to want to take a step back, go on your own pace or to set boundaries where necessary as things begin to change. Here are some tips that might be helpful as we transition back into our new normal:
1) Have self-compassion and be gentle with yourself. It is perfectly okay to feel anxious and nervous about restrictions easing and things starting to open back up. Your feelings are valid and try your best to not beat yourself down for feeling a certain way. Some days may be easier while other days can be hard. Whatever it is, try to work through your feelings as it comes up with curiosity and non-judgement. Just remember you can always adjust to your own pace and take a step back if necessary.
2) Setting healthy boundaries. Everyone will experience this transition differently and will experience different emotions. Focus on what you are comfortable doing and what you think is best for your overall mental wellbeing. Tune into your emotions and see how you are feeling, as this will help you understand what it is you need for yourself before you set boundaries. It is okay to put in place boundaries with family, friends and colleagues if you feel anxious and overwhelmed. Using “I” statements can be helpful when setting boundaries, as this will minimize blame on others, and shift the focus on what is happening for you. For example, “I am feeling nervous and overwhelmed and would like to continue to follow medical guidelines as we get together.” Remember, you the right to say ‘no.’ You do not have to attend every social event you have been invited to and you can express your need for wanting to continue maintaining physical distance if that is what you need for yourself.
3) Focus on things you have control over. While we may not have control over easing of restrictions, we do have control over how we protect ourselves, where we go and things we can do to protect our mental health. For example, you can control how much news you take in everyday, who you choose to meet and how you choose to socially gather while taking precautions. Having patience, understanding and flexibility with yourself and others can also be immensely helpful.
4) Creating new routine and structure. While there have been many changes over the past year, there will be many more changes to come moving forward. If you have been working from home and your child attended classes virtually, you may need to create new routines to help you ease into the changes that might occur as we transition back into our new normal. This might mean preparing the night before, or waking up earlier than usual to prepare, making time for commuting, or going to the gym and working out.
5) Re-engaging activities you enjoy and starting small.
We have all given up certain activities we’ve enjoyed over the past year. To ease back into our new normal, it might be useful to think about re-engaging in those activities at our own pace. It might be meeting up with friends at a patio versus indoor dining, attending outdoor gym, or going shopping. It’s important to remind yourself to re-engage in activities that you feel comfortable with and start small. Jumping back into something too quickly can be too much to handle for some people. If it becomes too overwhelming, just remember to scale it back when you need to.
It is okay to feel anxious and overwhelmed as changes occur in the next little while. Remember to adjust your pace at a level you are comfortable with and learning to set healthy boundaries where necessary to help maintain your overall mental wellbeing. Re-engaging in activities you find enjoyable and connecting with your social support system can be beneficial in helping you transition back into your new normal.
Mental Health First Aid from National Council for Mental Wellbeing (2021). Mental Health Tips for Transitioning to the New Normal. https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2021/06/mental-health-tips-for-transitioning-to-the-new- normal/
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Jennifer Leong is a registered social worker and psychotherapist with a professional goal to help improve and maintain good mental health for anyone who is willing to seek supports. She has a great interest in working with people from all walks of life who are facing difficulty with various life adjustments, stresses, and loss. She also works with people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, issues with boundaries, issues with self-esteem and self-worth, past difficulties and interpersonal relationships.
She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @jenniferleong.msw