• Charlotte Wallwork

Returning to life after a pandemic

Pandemics are unusual in that they last for a long time and impact all levels of society. All over the world, people are starting to consider ‘the new normal’, what this means for them, their livelihood and their social existence.

Restrictions have been, and still are in some areas, in place impacting our social lives and normal routines. The sudden change of not being able to go out for dinner, to a bar, a leisure centre or social engagement has affected us all differently. Young people in particular may have found that restrictions on seeing their friends has led to new dynamics; and for teenagers in particular, forming those friendships is an extremely important part of their life. It may be challenging for those people to pick up where they left off with their friends and this can be distressing and could even cause a level of anxiety.

For older people, the impact is different but not necessarily less problematic. Loneliness amongst the elderly (especially considering our ageing population) is a big problem, one that this pandemic has exacerbated. Companions and regular visits and even the routine of going food shopping or meeting friends has been affected and this has undoubtedly led to the elderly feeling isolated.

For those with children, life has either been hectic and stressful or it may have caused re-evaluation of how nice it is to spend that extra time at home; or possibly, a combination of these feelings.

There are also areas where we’ve all noticed change; gyms, cinemas, theatres, clothes shops, hairdressers and beauty salons have all been closed either long term or temporarily.

But slowly, the world is returning to normality and shops and restaurants are opening and social distancing is easing. So how do we return to normality in a way that supports our mental and physical health?

In short, slowly.

Whichever demographic group you fit into, the pandemic will have impacted you in some way, and whether that’s been very slight or very significantly, returning to normal life slowly and steadily will be the best way to re-enter society.

We each take a different amount of time to process events and it’s important to return to life at a pace that suits us individually. For some, possibly those who have lost a loved one in this pandemic, life will not return to normal, a new normal will have to be created and this will take time. There is no rush.

For those who have struggled with the impact of the pandemic, it could be beneficial to seek support from a counsellor to help talk through the adjustment period. There are many things that could be on our minds at the moment; the impact on jobs, friendships, grief, changes in relationships with spouses or parents, financial worries and our physical health – just to name a few! It’s very normal to feel overwhelmed by the idea of society re-opening after such an unprecedented event.

Speaking to a counsellor would help alleviate some of these worries by talking them through and helping you move forward.

It’s been widely publicised how people have struggled with the lack of beauty parlours being open. For some, it will be a relief to return to the usual routine when they reopen. If tanning, eyebrow shaping, hair treatments and manicures make you happy then you’ll be pleased that this is going to be unrestricted again. For others, this time off may have made them revaluate the time and resources put into their aesthetics, be kind to people who look different to what they looked like before the pandemic – their new normal might be a new natural look.

One way to connect the recent life experience to the new world is to take some of the new habits you’ve formed on that journey with you. If you’ve found that elements of self-care such as; exercise, meditation, personal care, gardening etc. have helped you get through the pandemic, you should carry these forward to help with the transition back to normal life. Perhaps you’ve taken up a new hobby, there is no reason why this can’t continue.

For some, the new habits formed during the pandemic have made them happier than they were before. It’s very common for a world-wide event such as this to make people re-evaluate their lifestyles and it may not be very exciting to think of the previous life returning. The thing to consider with this is that your life is your own and if you found this time to be better than before the pandemic, evaluate it, ask what it is that’s changed and if this can be changed long term. Perhaps you’ve been off work and while people around you are excited to return, you’re dreading it. This suggests it’s time to move on in your career. But these feelings can be overwhelming, and it may help to discuss your pandemic experience with a professional counsellor to flesh out potential ideas for your future.

Some of us have been at home with spouses and family members and we’re reconsidering how we spend our time, perhaps your work life balance needs adjusting.

The world will return to a level of normal that we recognise. Take a moment to consider what you have enjoyed and what you have disliked about the last few months and use this information to help you move forward in a way that works for you. Remember, there is no rush and if you don’t feel ready to mix with society, don’t be peer pressured into anything.

This pandemic may have made you realise how much you loved your life before and that’s a fantastic place to be! Relish it and go out when you can and make the most of it. But this pandemic might have changed you as a person, and that’s ok too, we’re all going to have things to figure out in our lives coming out of this pandemic, so you’re not alone.

Remember, take your time, put your mental and physical health above anything and get in touch if you feel that talking about your pandemic experience with a counsellor would help you move towards the new normal.

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