Returning to “normal” has never felt so strange. As the government and businesses plan reopening, the uncertainty around what that will look and feel like can be as (or even more) anxiety-producing than the thought of just staying inside.
Outside, people and situations operate outside our control, and while that can be frightening, it can also be an opportunity to lean into personal boundary setting. And getting in touch with your own levels of comfort is critical for protecting your physical, mental, and emotional health at any time (not just during global pandemics).
Here are a few ways to manage reentry in a way that feels healthy and right for you:
1) Be prepared and follow protocols. Find a mask you'll enjoy wearing (fun patterns & colors help!), and keep a few on hand. Figure out which one feels easiest to wear. For example, I learned that I prefer a mask that hooks behind the ears, as opposed to ties. I also prefer a machine-washable mask in a soft, breathable fabric for New Orleans summers.
2) Accept that reopening means assuming risk. Check in with yourself about what amount of risk you are willing and able to assume. Plan accordingly and communicate clearly with others about what they are.
3) Foster your boundaries around #2 and stick to them. You should feel safe and comfortable, while protecting your health and the health of those around you. Feel free to deny that social invitation if it's around folks you don't feel have their or your safety in mind OR if you feel uncomfortable.
4) Try to avoid the blame and shame game. All you can do is manage how you and your quarantine team are feeling. Trying to control others will only increase your feeling of helplessness and frustration.
5) Be transparent! Get comfortable talking about how you feel, especially when making plans with others. Have a conversation in advance to express your needs and expectations. You can ask: “I'm only comfortable if everyone is wearing masks and distancing, is that the case?" Being open about how you feel models transparency for your people and helps them do the same. We are all in uncharted territory, and all we can do is our best, so being upfront about this process is key.
6) Limit sources of anxiety. Maybe now is not the best time to read about crowded beaches over the holiday weekend. If someone is directly threatening your sense of personal comfort and safety, speak up. Otherwise, it’s not worth the peace of mind.
7) Take your time! There is truly no rush to "get back to normal." Let FOMO be a thing of pre-COVID life, and let this be an opportunity in focusing on your needs and desire. Accept that your pace of reopening may not look the same as your neighbors’. Everyone approaches reopening (and life) differently.
No matter how you navigate this, please remember to be gentle with yourself, even when you make mistakes or fumble! Now that we aren't confined to home as much, it can be a true sanctuary from which to retreat from the intensity of the outside world and be in selfcare. Soak it up!