This might sound silly but having fun can be hard, especially when you are learning how to re-socialize after a year of practical isolation. It can be exciting because you are eager to spend time with people. But it can also feel overwhelming because there are still so many questions and so much anticipation. These conflicting emotions can cause you to feel stressed and have the potential to take the fun right out of it. So how do you avoid this?
Preparation is key. If you know what some of the outcomes might be, you may not feel as blindsided when you experience them. Or when you see a family member or friend struggling you might have a better understanding of what they are going through.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to help get through the good times:
1. You might feel uncomfortable. It has been a long time since you have been able to casually be around people. Perhaps it's even been a long time since you’ve seen people without their masks on, were in their homes, or at their kitchen tables. So it may feel a little awkward at first but will feel like old times again soon. Remember that old saying “It's just like riding a bike”? Well, that applies here too.
2. Know your limits. When you have been used to such limited social stimulation, it will take a while to rebuild your stamina. So, know your limits and give yourself permission to leave when you feel you’ve had enough. This doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to spend time in these settings for as long as you used to but it does mean that it might take you a little bit of time to readjust. (You can’t just wake up and run a marathon; you have to train and build that stamina. The same applies here!)
3. You might be sad that COVID restrictions are being lifted. Over this past year you have had to make changes to your life in order to survive. These changes may have become a new routine. As much as you may have longed for it to be over and are ready to move on, it's okay if you feel a little bit of sadness that you have to get back to ‘real life’. Continue to incorporate any of the new routines that you have grown to love into your post-COVID days. You don’t have to say goodbye to all of it!
4. You might be a different person than you were one year ago. This last year has been challenging for everyone, in many different ways. Even when there isn’t a pandemic to fight, each year of life is challenging in its own right. So if you feel like you don’t enjoy the same things you used to, are having a hard time forgetting the gravity of this past year, or have a new appreciation for life after seeing so many lose theirs, know that it’s okay. By acknowledging this sadness you will give yourself the chance to move forward. Trying to ignore it or stuff it will only cause it to rear its ugly head later on.
5. Give yourself permission to have fun. Having been on such high alert for the past year means it might feel hard to let your guard down but when you feel like you are in a safe place, go for it! Have fun! Let your hair down and enjoy yourself. Living life without having fun isn’t really living, is it? If you find yourself not enjoying some of the things you did before, don’t give up until you’ve found one that works.
6. There is no one way to get out of this. The way that you recover from this past year will be unique to you. There is no manual and there surely is no right or wrong. Try to remember while listening to advice and seeing what others are doing that you ultimately need to do what is right for you. Just because your neighbor is doing it differently does not mean that you are doing it wrong. As long as you keep making steps forward, you will be okay!
The hope is that by being aware of some of this you will be able to give yourself a head start to returning to life as you once knew it. You will not feel all of this but knowing that you might experience some of it can help you to be better prepared. Healing will take time and will be filled with highs and lows. That’s okay. However, if you find yourself experiencing more lows than highs please ask for help. You might feel isolated but know that you are not alone.
Some resources to consider are:
Talk it out: 1.833.258.5011
2-1-1 or 211.org
Crisis Text Line: www.crisistextline.org or text HOME to 741741
National Disaster Distress Helpline: (800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Lisa Coates, LCSW, is the operations manager of the Bristol Health Counseling Center which is located at 420 North Main Street, Bristol. For an appointment or additional information, please call 860-583-5858 or visit www.bristolhealth.org