You’ve been waiting… and waiting… and waiting for this amazing, magical day when you could return to “normal life.”
For many people in the U.S., it feels like that dim light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is becoming brighter. My 12- and 14-year-old daughters now have their first shot, with the second one soon to follow. I was euphoric when the kids received their vaccinations, choking up under my mask at the relief that my family was now unlikely to get sick or pass the coronavirus on to others more vulnerable than we are. Finally our family could start returning to so-called normal life.
But what should those of us fortunate enough to be vaccinated return to? I didn’t exactly feel euphoric each day in my normal life pre-COVID-19. How should you choose what to rebuild, what to leave behind and what new paths to try for the first time? Clinical psychological science provides some helpful clues for how to chart your course out of pandemic life.
1. Set realistic expectations
You are less likely to be disappointed if you set reasonable expectations.
For instance, you’ll likely feel some anxiety as you try to figure out what’s OK to do and what’s still risky. Even as the risk level has declined in many places, there is still uncertainty and unpredictability tied to the current coronavirus risks, and it’s natural to feel anxious or ambivalent when letting go of an established habit, like wearing masks. So, be ready for some anxiety and realize it doesn’t mean something is wrong – it’s a natural reaction to a very unnatural situation.
It’s also likely that many social interactions will feel a little awkward at first. Most Americans are out of practice socializing, and repeated practice is what helps us feel comfortable.
Even if your social skills were at their peak, the current moment serves up a lot to navigate interpersonally. Chances are you won’t always agree with the people in your life on where to draw the lines about what’s safe and what’s not. There are going to be some complicated July Fourth parties to navigate given many families have some members vaccinated and some not. That will be frustrating after waiting so long to finally get together.
And you won’t automatically have warm, fuzzy feelings about all your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors. Many of those little annoyances that cropped up in your interactions before you ever heard of COVID-19 will still be there.
So, expect some awkwardness, frustration and annoyance – everyone’s creating new patterns and adjusting to changed relationships. This should all get easier with time and practice, but having realistic expectations can make the transition smoother.
Original publication 28 May, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 2nd June 2021
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