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We are beginning to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and that is very good news.
Despite some continuing surges in cases, we have vaccines available to more people, the death rate is falling and our better weather means more comfortable outdoor gatherings. As survivors, we have all suffered and grieved during the pandemic, whether or not a loved one has died. COVID-19 has affected us deeply, which means we will continue to react to it as we slowly emerge from this era.
Feeling anxious may come as a surprise. However, the pandemic continues despite its slowly lessening grip. In addition, even welcome changes can cause anxiety. I urge you to be patient with yourself and with others because this is a time when we’re all dealing with a long thread of stress. Yes, we will be happy with some of the changes we can make in our post-COVID lives, but it is normal to have anxious feelings when our lives shift.
During this period, self-care will be quite important. Do some planning around what will help you feel steadier and able to cope. Try to take some time for yourself. Be very forgiving of yourself.
It may be really difficult to feel safe going back out in the world, and it’s OK to have some anxiety about this. Accept the feelings and do your best to cope. If you’re doing the best you can, that’s good enough.
Figure out your new routines
If your children have been home 24/7, the change to in-person learning will be a major change. You will be your children’s role model as well as their support.
For yourself, explore your old routines for what you want to retain, launch new routines or create a hybrid. Really think about how you want your post-COVID life to look. I find that journaling is very helpful during transitions. It doesn’t have to be a fancy blank book, although those are great; rather, your journal can be a notepad or scratch paper.
The idea is to release your emotions and thoughts on paper, preserving them and learning from them as well as avoiding overloading yourself or your loved ones with your stress. You may discover common themes in your journal that will guide you in your decisions or you may notice concerns that you need to address.
Find help mindfulness apps
You may also find relief by using guided mindfulness apps, such as Calm, which provides a free trial, or My Strength, which is offered by some health care providers. Kaiser Permanente members can use Find Your Words, which my patients appreciate.
Even if you make an appointment with a mental health professional, the apps may help you cope while you wait for your meeting, especially because many Lane County counselors, social workers and psychologists are flooded with requests for appointments right now.
Plus, the apps may be a useful supplement between sessions once you connect with a provider.
Keep learned coping skills into your new reality
Reassure yourself that a post-COVID transition is something you can do, but be thoughtful about jumping into it.
Ask yourself what has helped you stay resilient during the last year. If knitting became your stress relief, you’ll benefit from continuing that hobby. If gardening or walks through the neighborhood helped you feel better in the pandemic, plan ways to fit the activity into your new day-to-day reality.
I’ve heard people say that they learned during the pandemic that they want to work to live, not live to work. If that’s true for you, too, think about concrete steps you can take to avoid falling back into those workaholic habits.
Keep appreciating the little things of life, deliberately incorporating them into your new routine.
We must continue to take precautions while the pandemic runs its course. However, it looks as if we will move from surviving to thriving. We will be able to release our stress about the virus, retain what worked during the height of COVID-19 and structure our lives so they work even better in the future.
Blake Lauren Hills, LPC, is a behavioral health consultant at Kaiser Permanente’s Garden Way Medical Office in Eugene. For more information, visit kp.org.