- Because of the new post-pandemic challenges, psychologists think more people will seek therapy.
- Everyone will have different comfort levels when they move back to normal.
- There are steps you can take to ease into a post-pandemic routine.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
Whether she was infected with COVID-19, was at risk of being exposed as an essential worker, or was working from home, the pandemic disrupted everyday life.
“Many of us have been locked into almost as a way of chronic stress,” Craig Sawchuk, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the Insider.
But as more people get vaccinated and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dissolves their COVID-19 mitigation strategies, signs of normalcy are back. Restaurants open and some offices let people back into the office.
Despite the return to a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, many people will have long-term effects from the trauma they have experienced.
It is normal to take the time to deal with a traumatic event
Sawchuk also said if a threat, like COVID-19, goes away, it will take time for our bodies and our minds to recover.
After a traumatic event, Sawchuk said it is normal to reflect and think about the event. But it becomes a problem if people have flashbacks or incubations for more than three months.
Sawchuk said that while he has seen an increase in people seeking therapy during the pandemic, he expects to see more interest once normal life returns. This is partly because people have to deal with new stressors, such as adapting to a hybrid job in person and at a distance or being overwhelmed by social plans.
How to facilitate your return in post-pandemic life
Sawchuk said a lot as we add to the order to stay at home, we have to adapt to post-pandemic life. “It will be like a new adaptation to a new normalcy again,” he said.
But your routine won’t change drastically. Sawchuk and Moriah Thomason, a child psychiatrist at NYU Langone, said there are ways to help yourself, and others, get back into post-pandemic normalcy.
If you are an employer, tell employees what to expect
Thomason said employers often presented clear instructions on what employees should do when home stay orders were announced, and suggested that there be specific instructions if you should return to the office. Recognizing and formalizing back to work processes will help people know what to expect.
In Thomason’s own office, instead of abruptly asking employees to come back, he presented a plan. “I said,‘ Here’s what the future looks like. ’We’re going to put this plan in place so we can get you back on site,” Thomason said.
Be respectful of people’s boundaries
People have been affected by the pandemic in different ways. While some may be grieving the time lost in meeting a new partner, others may even deal with it long COVID symptoms. Because everyone has different levels of comfort while picking up routines in person, Sawchuk said it’s important to meet each person wherever they are.
“Be respectful of the choices of others in terms of how you navigate things forward. Don’t apply undue pressure,” Sawchuk said.
Set boundaries for yourself
Set realistic expectations for yourself and test what activities you enjoy doing. “Take a graduated approach, like getting into the shallow end of the pool,” Sawchuk said.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the notion of post-pandemic normalcy, Sawchuk suggested starting with a friend outside, and if you’re comfortable, eventually plan meetings inside.
Be careful if you or a friend start to retire
After a traumatic event, Sawchuk said it’s normal for people to rumble or have flashbacks for up to three months, but it’s a little harder to measure a normal chronology for the pandemic because it’s ongoing.
Sawchuk said that if retirement from friends interferes with your daily life, it may be time to seek help, such as talking to a primary care doctor who can refer you to a therapist. Similarly, if you notice that friends are starting to retire or stop caring, check on them.