“I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” I know I have said it many times over the past couple of months and I hear it from all of my clients. The problem is, that may never happen. The way of life we were used to may be forever changed. But there are pieces of that way of life that we can absolutely get back, it just might look different as we move forward out of sheltering at home and into figuring out how to thrive again.
We have spent the past couple of months surviving. Surviving staying at home; surviving distance learning or working; surviving through loneliness; surviving through having COVID-19; surviving through all the losses we had to grieve; surviving through loss of jobs; and surviving through the unknown. Now we begin to learn how to thrive in our new normal.
Just as adjusting to sheltering at home took some time and effort, so will learning how to operate as we move back out into the world. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health as we adjust to moving outside of our homes and developing our new normal.
1. Take your time. You do not have to rush out and go to everything just because it is open. Check in with yourself on what feels comfortable for you. Identify what you feel is important for you to do and make a plan on trying things one at a time. If you are not ready to sit down and eat at a restaurant then do not feel pressured to do so. Maybe start with ordering food and picking it up. Call up places you want to visit and ask about their safety precautions to make sure that you come prepared and that you feel they are doing things to stay safe to help you choose where you venture out.
2. Stay in the present. There are still a lot of unknowns about how things are going to look in a few months. A few months ago, we didn’t even have a clue we would walk through this sheltering in place experience. That tells us that a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Work on staying focused on today and what you can do with today. You can practice this best by learning mindfulness skills. You can use some apps like Mindfulness Coach and Headspace or the Mindful website www.mindful.com
3. Don’t let fear rule your life. It is good to be cautious and concerned but we do not need to be fearful. Worry and anxiety are going to pop up and that is normal. But we do not have to stay in fear, worry and anxiety. Try to reframe from following predictions about what will happen as that tends to increase our fear especially because there are just too many unknowns. Continue to limit your news intake as I hope you have been doing. Try to focus on facts and events that are happening in the present. Continue to practice hand washing and social distancing.
4. Keep having a routine. If you are able to keep the one you have been using, great; if not, create a new routine as things transition. This helps you feel a sense of control and consistency with all the changes.
5. Be kind to yourself and others. There is a lot of judgment going on about safety, reopening, going out, what precautions are required, etc. Kindness can go a long way as we move forward. Do not judge yourself for the choices you make and try to reframe from judging others. Go easy on yourself if you are struggling with fear or worry. Practice self care things such as getting good sleep, exercising, eating well, doing enjoyable activities, and staying connected.
6. Keep the good things you have gained during sheltering at home. Have you been exercising regularly? Did you pick up a new hobby? Have you been using video chat more to stay connected to family and friends? Have you been reading more? Find ways to incorporate those activities and habits in your new routine.
7. Connect with family and friends. As you feel ready, see your family and friends. You can start off by meeting outside at a park or hanging out in a backyard. As you feel comfortable, you can visit in homes, restaurants and out in public. Being in-person with those we love and care about has been dearly missed and it is a great way to help your mental health.
Remember that we will have many of the things we love and are used to having back in our daily lives soon. They just may look different than they did in the past. Though we all have had different experiences of this situation, we are not alone in walking through this next chapter of life. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, worry, depression or loneliness, please reach out for help.
Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!
Shannon Hargrave, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Shannon specializes in working with kids, teens, adults, and families. She has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatientresidential treatment center, substance abuse, in home/office outpatient therapy. Shannon holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Shannon specializes in a range of concerns including: depression, self-injury, parenting issues, teen issues, anxiety, anger management, low self-esteem, poor communication skills, substance abuse, parenting and behavior issues.