There's no doubt about it: Thanks to vaccination efforts, for the first time in 15 months, things are starting to feel ... normal. And that's something to celebrate.
At the same time, many of us are reeling from the events of the past year. Some of us lost people we love, got sick ourselves, or lost our jobs. Others had less extreme experiences, but may have struggled from a mental health perspective.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, there's no question that this is a time for grace, for healing, and yes, for fun. But as we all start to settle back into a normal-feeling routine, consider this: The pandemic, as tough as it was, granted us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start over; to say goodbye to old habits that weren't serving us and welcome new ones.
"People have had the chance to really take inventory of their life and get in contact with what really matters most such as family, friendship, and connection," explains Dr. Cheyenne Bryant, psychology expert, motivational speaker, and author.
Many people had the opportunity to sit with themselves and obtain awareness on their "stuff" that needed healing, that in a busy social world often gets overlooked, she explains. "Many of my clients reported that the quarantine brought awareness to necessary pain pockets, traumas, and experiences that needed healing. They shared that they were grateful for the opportunity to not only be aware, but process and heal from those impairments."
Research shows that habit change is easiest when we're in a transition. For example, if you move to a new house, it may be easier to leave behind a bad habit—like heading to the kitchen for too many snacks after dinner, say—because you're presented with a new context. Our post-quarantine life is offering up a similar opportunity.
As you ruminate on this, here are a few questions you might want to consider asking yourself:
- What do you want to leave behind from your "old" life?
- What did you learn about yourself during quarantine?
- What does your ideal post-quarantine routine look like? Which friends do you see regularly, and which friends will you keep your distance from? How often will you exercise? Will you get more sleep?
If this resonates with you and you're feeling the itch to "start fresh," here's what Dr. Bryant wants you to keep in mind to make your transition easier.
Ease back in to social and work life
You might feel tempted to throw yourself back into your "old" life headfirst after too many months spent staring at the four walls of your apartment and talking to almost no one. Dr. Bryant suggests taking it a little slower than that.
"It's important to keep balance when returning to work and play so that you don't end up burnt out," she explains. "Burnout can happen very quickly and easily. It takes a lot of work and time to recharge back to normalcy."
Take breaks as needed
Again, we all need breaks! As excited as you may be by a new routine marked by new habits (goodbye night owl, hello morning person!) it's important to give yourself breaks. Why? Because establishing a new routine can be exhausting.
"The most important mental health is your mental health. Why? Because, we can only give what we have and what good are we if all we have to offer is an unhealthy toxic person," says Dr. Bryant.
Communicate feelings of sadness or isolation
"The goal is to prevent mental health impairments not endure them," Dr. Bryant says. "Sometimes intervention is too late."
Seek professional help if transitioning becomes too much
Prevention is always more effective than intervention. "A professional will help you process through the transition and provide effective tools for you to transition smoothly and support you throughout the entire process," says Dr. Bryant.
Indulge in daily self-care
It's no secret that we're all about self-care at S+S. So as you're crafting you're new routine, we (and Dr. Bryant) encourage you to make sure it involves self-care.
"Do the things you love to do! Self-care needs to be a lifestyle not something you do only when you are overwhelmed or have time to do it," says Dr. Bryant. "Make time for yourself daily, indulge, and do not feel guilty about it."
How are you planning to "start over" post-pandemic? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.