The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated many changes over the last year. Months of ongoing stress have pushed many people to their limits and challenged their coping skills.
Now that the country is slowly starting to open, you may be looking forward to attending events and socializing in person more often. However, you may also feel some hesitation and unease. Here are some of the emotions you may be experiencing, some steps for getting back to normal after COVID, and several stress management strategies to help you cope.
Pandemic Mindset – Living With Chronic Stress
When the cancellations and shutdowns first began, daily life changed. You may have spent more time at home, felt lonely or worried, and found yourself staring at a blank social calendar. As time went on, you may have felt bogged down with the weight of anxiety, stress, and social isolation. The repetitiveness of our limited routines and lack of stimulation may have felt draining. You may have developed negative feelings towards social interactions after prolonged isolation and loneliness, making it a challenge to think about getting back to normal.
If you have felt disconnected or unmotivated during the last year, your emotions may have become numb due to the energy it takes to cope with chronic stress every day. You may also have noticed your mental alertness and concentration suffering, with changes in your ability to remember things and pay attention to details.
How to Cope with Life after Lockdown
Now that we are anticipating life after the pandemic, it is time to look more closely at our mindset. Your preparation starts with self-awareness and acceptance. Set aside time to consider how the pandemic has affected your mental wellness and what you need to move forward:
- How have you grown through your experience?
- What situations in the near future may trigger strong emotions?
- How might you feel with a change of scenery?
Examining Your Habits
The habits you have developed or dropped during the pandemic can give you insight into how you may be coping with stress. For example, your daily walk may have helped you feel more balanced and even-tempered. Perhaps your eating habits have changed. You may have started skipping meals or snacking late at night. While you may not like or agree with your new routine, acknowledging these habits can show you how you have learned to manage your emotions or shed light on areas where you may need additional coping strategies.
Some individuals have faced traumatic stressors related to the pandemic, such as:
- Grief and loss
- Managing a severe illness
- Dealing with hospitalization
- Experiencing overexposure to distressing information
- Living with prolonged isolation
If the idea of re-integrating into your pre-COVID routine triggers fear or anticipatory anxiety, acknowledging what has happened since life turned upside-down can be key to moving on, a principle adapted from addiction recovery. You may also benefit from clearly communicating your plans to others so you can get support from your loved ones.
Mental Wellness Tools for Your Daily Routine
By making a deliberate effort to support your emotions and mindset, your transition to life after COVID can be smoother. Begin by adding these mental wellness tools to your daily routine.
Brief Exercise or Physical Activity
Regular exercise is a natural mood booster. Make time for short exercise sessions at home or take a daily walk around your neighborhood.
Breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness can help you regulate your emotions and cultivate feelings of gratitude. Pay attention to your emotional, physical, and mental reactions when re–entering situations. Mindfully recognizing your emotions can help you outline ways to deal with them.
Start Small with Social Gatherings
Reintegrate social activities slowly. If you have been more isolated since the pandemic began, jumping back into social scenes may trigger some stress or anxiety. Start with gatherings of one or two people at first. Ease into larger gatherings by giving yourself extra personal space and looking for an exit route in case you feel overwhelmed.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep restores both your mind and body. When you feel more rested, you may feel more competent in regulating your emotions.
To mentally prepare for your new daily routines, you will need to honor your emotions and be patient with the process.
DNA Testing for Mental Health
Understanding your genetic profile can shed light on your behavioral predispositions and tendencies. By identifying your genetic predispositions, you gain a foundational understanding of how and why you may behave and respond to certain situations as you do. Thus, instead of experimenting with random coping strategies, you can target specific areas where you are more likely to struggle. You can take personalized action to address these concerns, improving your mental wellbeing one step at a time.
The Genomind Mental Health Map™ is a DNA-based assessment tool for mental health and wellness that provides in-depth analysis of your genetic predispositions across the 7 Core Genetic Mental Health Capabilities™, including Stress & Anxiety, Mood, Social Behavior, and more.
The Mental Health Map pairs actionable insights with personalized recommendations to sustain and improve mental wellness, helping you focus on areas in your life that may need some extra support. This gives you an expert starting point for facing many health and wellbeing challenges brought on by the pandemic.
A Targeted Approach to Stress Management
With these reports, you can become more mindful of how you may respond to stress and which interventions to consider. For example:
- Incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can reduce muscle tension and alleviate stress.
- Knowing your sensitivity to sleep deprivation can help you create a self-care plan for improving sleep or coping with increased stress on days following a sleepless night.
- Understanding your tendency to become irritable with others can help you be on the lookout for early signs of stress. You can manage your stress before your behavior negatively impacts your relationships.
Life After COVID-19
As the immediate health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic begin to decline, you might consider adjusting your daily routine, seeing more people in person, and returning to places you have not been to in months. As the COVID pandemic subsides, the response to the mental health impact has only just begun.
Mentally preparing for life after COVID and letting go of anxieties can be the first step in getting back to normal. Be patient with yourself as you navigate this period, and find appropriate tools to help you cope with stressors.