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Where Do We Go From Here?: Life After the Pandemic

Covid-19 has changed the way we lived our lives. Almost everything familiar—spending time with family and friends, taking part in social events, going to work, mundane activities like buying groceries—became situations that had the potential to result in ourselves or others becoming sick or even dying. We may not always have enjoyed the familiar—a trip to the market to get paper towels, for example, or buying gas—but we never had to weigh the risks we might be taking or find alternative ways to get things done. Seemingly overnight, the ordinary became extraordinarily complicated.

Covid-19 has also changed us. We’re no longer who we were pre-pandemic. Some of that change has been painful and unwanted; some of it may have offered greater insight into ourselves and what matters most to us. And what matters most may have also changed. This past year has forced me to recognize that I’m fine with big changes in my life, like moving to a different part of the country where I don’t know many, or any, people … when I initiate those changes. But when change that I have absolutely no control over happens? Turns out I’m not as adaptable as I liked to think I was.

Just as Covid-19 won’t disappear overnight, neither will the emotions—grief, fear, anger—we’ve been living with for the past year. Now that an “after” appears to be in sight, a new uncertainty has been added to the mix: What will a post-pandemic world look like? How do we reengage with others after so long apart and whom do we want to reengage with? And perhaps the biggest question of all, how do we want to live our lives?

Living with the unknown is never easy and rarely is it comfortable, but all those feelings—the grief, fear, anger, uncertainty—are normal. We’re still in collective mourning for lives lost and for those existing in what feels like a perpetual state of limbo. As we emerge from the past year of unchosen isolation, it’s essential to remember that we aren’t alone in feeling nervous, ambivalent, and afraid. Here are a few suggestions to help ease discomfort during this time of transition.

  • Ease, don’t rush, back into pre-pandemic activities—pace yourself.
  • Recognize, and respect, that people may have different comfort levels from your own when it comes to socializing. And recognize and respect your own comfort level.
  • Achieving and maintaining balance is challenging in the best of times. This past year made that challenge even more daunting. Some often-mentioned practices to help with balance include yoga and meditation. Two more practices to try are singing or dancing by yourself (or singing while dancing) or visualizing a safe, peaceful place, real or imagined, that you can visit whenever you’re feeling anxious or adrift. And sometimesit’s the small things that can provide unexpected enjoyment and comfort.

The American Psychological Association has compiled adatabase of Covid-19-related resources on mental and emotional well-being as have theNational Institute of Mental Health and theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.