How Can We Handle Returning to “Normalcy”?

by Vance Farrell
senior woman with grandchild

At the beginning of the pandemic and throughout the shutdown, there have been constant, sometimes instantaneous, changes that have caused confusion, fear, dismay, and various other strong emotions to be present. A majority of these changes caused the unfortunate upheaval of what was considered routine and normal and replaced it with questions and uncertainty. Living in an environment such as this has been shown to have disastrous impacts on an individual’s mental strength and ability to cope with various situations, but that was the “new normal.” 

It has now been 16 months since many locations implemented the “two weeks” shut down in order to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As the government, businesses, and individuals are looking towards the future and getting things back in order, there are a number of factors that need to be considered and a lot of questions that need to be asked. One such question includes: How will the transition back affect people’s mental health? This is an important question to ask as there was a sudden and sharp decline in people’s mental health when the shutdown started and throughout the pandemic. However, many people and companies have termed this existence the “new normal.” They have made adjustments necessary to survive in this environment because they have had to.  

When planning the return to “normalcy,” one thing that needs to be kept in mind is a slow return to previous ways of doing things that then hard, abrupt changes. Slowly changing things back to how they were before allows everybody to readjust to these changes and get used to them without forcing people to completely uproot their “new normal” that was developed throughout the pandemic. While the beginning of the shutdown seems like the distant past, it is not, and it can be easy to forget the widespread struggle that occurred when making the necessary changes to keep people safe. Giving people a slowed transition back allows them the chance to not only adjust physically but psychologically and emotionally as well, which will make the change smoother and allow for proper coping.  

The other vital tenet to be utilized is embracing the positive changes that have come about because of the change caused by the pandemic. These changes will look differently depending on the profession, but some positives have come about that were thought to be impossible before. For most, this is the ability to work remotely or from home and be more available for their families or their lives without the hustle and bustle of commuting to and from an office daily with thousands of others. Proper planning can help to keep benefits such as or like this a viable option for many organizations, which could save money as well as improve the mental well-being of their employees.  

Additionally, there are things that each of us can do on an individual basis that will help not only ourselves but others in our lives with the transition back. Maintaining a positive mindset, utilizing coping skills, taking care of yourself, and reaching out to your supports will be key facets that each person can do to make this transition smooth and successful. Seeking the assistance of others for mental health is a very difficult task with the stigma associated with mental health issues, but the importance of seeking help and the benefits that it can have on one’s life can be life-changing. In conjunction with seeking help, all the aforementioned items above have been shown to help individuals cope with the situation(s) that they may find themselves in that can be overwhelming. The added benefit to all of these skills or tools as well is that they can all involve others which can help with those feelings of loneliness that are often present when one is going through a troubling time.  

The transition back will be difficult for a lot of people for varying reasons, with its impact differing from person to person without uniformity. Make sure that you are aware of the impact the transition may be having on you and seek the proper help to manage that impact. 

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