This Spring, one of the many fresh starts we are encountering is finding our new normal. A year from when the pandemic first struck, we are now poking our heads around the corner and sensing that the freedom and ‘normalcy’ we have all been craving is finally arriving as the world reopens. So, why is it that instead of being filled with excitement and relief, many of us are feeling anxious, confused and even a sense of dread?
This is normal and you are not alone.
When you look at the COVID crisis, retrospectively – it was sudden and abrupt. With no warning and no time to mentally prepare, humans all around the world were being asked to adapt and adjust to this new experience at the drop of a hat. In a fast paced and constantly changing world, we had to make friends with slowness, the mundane and ourselves.
We have created a home within ourselves, and many of us have gotten comfortable in our own homes. For some, we have reconnected with parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. For others, we have experienced pain, loss and grief. Collectively, we all have a shared experience of uncertainty and great change.
As we reintegrate back into society, I ask you to draw on your compassion not only for others, but also for yourself as we move into the new normal.
It is okay to accept that everything has changed, and where we find normalcy moving forward may be different from before. You may find that activities that once brought you joy no longer interest you, and you’ve found new things you enjoy. Or you may find that you really miss the things you used to do, and cannot wait to do them again. Whatever your experience of lockdown and wherever you stand now – here are some things to keep in mind as we start to come together again as a society.
Talk about it
This experience has been unique to everyone. However, regardless of the differences in your time during lockdown, the whole experience of the pandemic is a shared one. We have all gone through this in some way together. You are not alone – so talk about it! If you feel nervous, open up because everyone feels the same. Although we have all had to spend a lot of time alone this past year – we are not alone. We are all experiencing this uncertainty, so hold compassion for yourself and others and share how you feel.
Take your time
There is no rush. If you don’t want to, you do not need to be the first one at the bar. You do not have to see all your friends in one go. You can balance it out and meet one or two friends one weekend and then give yourself a break and some space before you meet the others. It’s okay to not overbook yourself, and to take your time to get back into the swing of things. Likewise, be kind and be patient with your friends. If you are excited and looking forward to reconnecting with the ones you love, don’t take your loved ones’ lack of enthusiasm personally. Consider that they may be feeling overwhelmed and need a little more time to adjust and get back out into society. Again, this is a shared experience so if unsure, just ask people what they feel comfortable with and stay compassionate and kind, allowing space for everyone to adjust in their own way.
Honour how you feel
Despite your enthusiasm to return to the buzzing and fun places you used to frequent, it is normal to feel a little overwhelmed when first going back. A certain activity may have been something you used to do without a second thought once before, but for now it is a new experience, and as with all new experiences – you will need a moment to get used to things again. Don’t listen to the inner critic who tells you you’re being weird and to just snap out of it – observe how you feel and give yourself what you need. Perhaps you need a moment to step outside, experience some calm and connect with yourself in order to feel more comfortable. Or, maybe you aren’t able to drink the way you once used to, in which case it’s fine to order mock-tails and soft drinks so you can take a moment to adjust and just enjoy being around your friends again. You could even experience this when getting ready and feeling out of place when no longer wearing comfy loungewear – you don’t need to force yourself into clothes that now feel foreign, it’s okay to find a middle ground and ease yourself into being the way you used to be. Either way, when in doubt – take yourself to the side, take some deep breaths and ask yourself what you are comfortable with or what will make you feel more comfortable right now?
Take the lead
Many of us have discovered new talents, new interests and new forms of joy. One great thing to come out of the pandemic is the strengethened sense of community through social media and the internet. If you have a sudden interest in gardening, reading, knitting, or even astrology – why not organise an event online? It could be a casual meet up in a park or coffee shop and a fun way to meet new people who have a shared interest. Yes, this is a wonderful time to reconnect with our friends and loved ones, but it is also a time to embrace all the beautiful ways in which you have changed and grown, an opportunity to widen your friend circle. Everyone is looking to connect with like minded people, so take the step to look for people who share your new interests, especially if whatever used to interest you no longer resonates.
Be A Baddie
If you have experienced a complete 180 during lockdown with who you are and how you relate to the world – that is normal and you are not alone. It can be an incredibly overwhelming experience to spend so much time alone, change drastically and then feel like you no longer can relate. It can also be tempting to abandon the new changes you’ve made in order to feel a sense of connection and belonging after being separated from other humans for so long. It is okay to change. You are not the only one experiencing this even if it may feel that way, and especially if you fear that others may not understand the new you. Be patient and honest with yourself, and most importantly – be brave. Be brave enough to say ‘I do not do this anymore.’ Be brave enough to be you.
*Images throughout by Ugachi Takako