There’s no denying the COVID-19 had a significant impact on mental health – especially for those who were already dealing with mental health illness before the pandemic hit.
And apart from individual mental health struggles, we also experienced what is called “collective trauma”.
We all experienced the hardship of lockdown protocols, the changing of everyday life, and many people shared in the grief of losing someone to the virus.
We were also collectively affected by the 24-7 news cycles highlighting horror stories from around the world and we shared in our suffering as we faced financial hardships and job loss.
We felt a heightened sense of fear as we were afraid to leave our homes lest we catch the virus or pass it to others. We feared for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our friends.
We were told to physically distance and quarantine, putting us into a state of isolation too.
So when you take existing mental health issues and pile on the struggles of “collective trauma”, it’s easy to see how the pandemic has led to a significant increase in mental health issues.
Will Things Get Better?
Is this going to change as we head into “the new normal?” While a lot of the contributing factors that have impacted mental health are going to decrease – isolation, fear, grief – we now have a new challenge to face as we try to reinsert ourselves into a forever changed world.
We are fortunate, however, to have this opportunity to prepare ourselves for the next phase of COVID-19: The Recovery.
Even though seeing the end of the coronavirus pandemic is a joyful occasion, we are about to face some unprecedented changes, and we as human beings are not good with change.
So the best way to adjust to the new normal is to take a look at how things were and how they are probably going to be – and prepare ourselves for those changes whether they be big or small.
The Old Normal Versus The New Normal: Are They The Same?
As more countries around the world are easing their COVID-19 restrictions, people are now wondering what the new normal is going to look like.
Many of the new behaviors we acquired during the pandemic were out of necessity. We were working out at home, shopping online, wearing masks in stores, and consuming more media. It’s safe to assume that these behaviors are as likely to continue as if they were New Year’s resolutions.
If you look at countries that have eased their restrictions because case numbers have significantly decreased, such as China and Germany, one factor that remains consistent is how their populations are looking forward to returning to a normal life with confidence.
They are looking at when they can book vacations again and how soon they can shop or go to public locations without any restrictions.
It seems that the need to feel safe will definitely be a huge part of the new normal. In these countries, for instance, individuals are looking for ways to adapt to the situation in safe ways.
In the case of travel, they are looking at taking staycations or remaining in their own country as opposed to traveling internationally.
Overall, these individuals who are further on the road to recovery are taking a more pragmatic approach to return to a sense of normality.
So what does that mean for old normal versus new normal?
It all depends on what changes will become permanent in our societies. Activities such as family socializing, pursuing hobbies, and using online learning as an educational tool were once things we didn’t seem to have time for prior to the pandemic but we made time for during lockdowns.
E-commerce, too, is likely here to stay. Individuals are probably going to continue to buy items online and have them delivered to their homes.
Overall, the need for certainty in the post-pandemic world is going to focus on safety and reassurance.
This means that the new normal is not going to be as drastically different as we may expect – we’re not going to obsess over safety, we’re merely going to prioritize it more than we did in the past.
How to Adjust to the New Normal
That’s not to say that the transition into the new normal is going to be a breeze. Again, it’s a change and one that we need to physically and mentally prepare for.
The important thing in adjusting to the new normal is to give yourself time and set boundaries as things begin to change.
Here are some tips on how to adjust to the new normal after COVID-19:
- Embrace your anxiety. It’s okay to feel a bit anxious about the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. There are going to be days where going out into the world will be easy and some days where it will be hard. No matter how you feel, all of your emotions are valid so let them guide you to entering the new normal.
- Control what you can. You can’t control current restrictions as they are being lifted but you can control how you protect yourself and your mental health. So if reading the news is stressful, stop reading it. If going to the grocery store is stressful, order your food online. Be flexible while having patience for yourself and others.
- Create new routines. There’s no doubt that your life has changed in the last year and it’s going to continue to change as we all adjust to the new normal. If you’re going back to the office after working from home, start waking up earlier. If your kids are going back to school, adjust their bedtime accordingly.
- Set healthy boundaries. Everyone has experienced a range of emotions during the pandemic including fear. Stick to what you’re comfortable with, even if that means staying away from friends and family when you feel overwhelmed or anxious. Start small and build from there.
- Do what you love. One of the first “normal” things I did that brought me joy was going to the theaters to see a movie. It helped me feel less anxious about going out in the world. Think about the things you can now do that you weren’t able to do for a year and do them without jumping back into things too quickly.
While returning to normal seems like a dream come true after a year of hardships, it’s not going to be easy for everyone. After all we’ve been through, it’s okay to feel nervous about going back out into public.
Social isolation can be extremely detrimental to your mental health, so it is important to get back out there. You just want to do it at a pace that is comfortable to you and doesn’t create more stress and anxiety in your life.
Be sure to lean on your support system and let them know your concerns. The good people in your life will respect your apprehensions and find ways to be an active part of your life without pushing you out of your comfort zone.
We’re Almost There!
This time last year it was hard to believe we would ever see an end to COVID-19. It’s on the horizon and, with time and patience, we will all be out there in the world enjoying the new normal!
What are your thoughts? How are you preparing for the new normal? Share your insight in the comments!