A Transition to Normalcy

Decorative Photo by Drazen Zigic for Getty Images

Photo by Drazen Zigic for Getty Images

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably spent the better part of the last year fantasizing about post-pandemic life. The transition back to ‘normal’ will be complex and involve unforeseen obstacles. Naturally, we feel trepidation and even reluctance to dive back into activities we enjoyed before.

Fear is a driving force behind much of human behavior. Learning to fear helps us avoid that which can be dangerous to us. As a general rule, we don’t fear activities that we consider safe. But what happens when we have to adapt to the idea that certain “safe” activities are now dangerous?

We’ve been rewiring our brains to perceive certain activities (like going to the gym) as dangerous for the past year. It hasn’t been an utterly conscious act, and it didn’t happen all at once — it took months to build these behaviors. And now that the time has come to return to our old patterns, we need to wire our brains back to the way they were before March 2020.

Transitioning back to pre-pandemic life will be more difficult and uncomfortable than many of us may have thought. It will also be a more gradual process than we may have hoped. However, it is achievable, and it’s something we will learn to do both on our own and together.

As you transition back to “normal life,” please keep in mind:

1. There Is No “Pandemic Finish Line”

After we drop most precautionary measures, it is likely we will see occasional spikes in infection. These will be unpleasant setbacks but they should not scare us from committing to the process.

2. Transition at Your Pace, No One Else’s Just as we each coped with the pandemic differently, we will each need to find our path for transitioning back. As long as we are all following public health guidelines, we can choose a comfortable pace to return to old activities.

3. It’s Going To Be Uncomfortable There will be discomfort involved in this process. It’s natural. Your fear of activities that you may have once found enjoyable probably won’t disappear all at once. It will, however, lessen each time you try something new.

. . .

If you’re feeling any fear and anxiety about returning to “normal” life, try making a list of activities that you had to change or give up because of the pandemic. Rank them according to which causes you the most discomfort now. Start your transition with the activities that you find less anxiety-inducing, and work your way up.

It will take time, but you’ll get there. We all will.

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