The world is slowly starting to reopen-I am supposed to feel better, but why do I still feel so bad?
When COVID-19 hit in March, many of us went through periods of depression and anxiety. The overwhelming exhaustion of social distancing, working from home and home schooling was too much to handle. I think we all thought “once the world re-opens, I will feel better.” As the months went on, it seemed we were “getting used” to this new normal and those deep feelings of sadness and loss were starting to improve.
Well now that things are starting to open, many of us (including myself!) are starting to have a second wave of powerful emotions, including fear, apprehension, and uncertainty. I personally have been questioning all of my decisions as they relate to re-opening and “resuming normalcy.” What does it mean if I send my kids to camp? Is it safe to visit with grandparents after we send the kids to camp? Is it less risky to go get my haircut or eat at a restaurant outside? Do I feel comfortable going to HomeGoods with no purpose other than to walk around?
When I called to ask our pediatrician her thoughts about the kids and “resuming normalcy” she told me she couldn’t answer that for me, and I had to weigh all the factors and make the decision that was best for my family. I screamed in my head “WHAT??? But I NEED you to tell me what the right decision is!”
So now that I have sat with answer of “You need to weigh the risk factors and make the decisions that are best for you and your family” I am going to leave that advice with you as well.
There seems to be an expectation that just because things are opening, we should feel comfortable resuming “normalcy.” But let’s be honest, the world is still far from the normal that we knew back in February. There is nothing normal about temp checks, mask wearing and having to negotiate if you can hug loved ones outside of your immediate family. So how do you make decisions when there are not clear stop and go signs?
1. Listen to your gut: Maybe it’s a feeling or maybe it’s a little voice inside your head, but listen to it. Just because other people are doing something (like going to HomeGoods or going out to eat) and your gut says it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to do it.
2. Do your OWN personal risk assessment: Understand that there are still varying levels of risk for engaging in “normalcy.” Questions to ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with the safety protocols? How will doing “X” impact my ability to do “Y”? If you have aging parents or grandparents and plan to see them, what is your comfort level of resuming normalcy after contact with people outside your family? When you see family and friends do you feel comfortable with any hugging or physical contact?
3. Just Say NO: Its ok to take things slowly. It is ok to decline going to a BBQ. Its ok to not join the pool club and to say no to play dates for your children. Now don’t get me wrong, the “right” decision is not always the easy one. You may get push back from family, friends and even your own children. Find your voice to stand your ground and maintain the boundary that is best for your family.
4. Just Say YES: Pace yourself, but give space to re-enter. Maybe you loosen the reigns and bring the packages in immediately instead of keeping them on the front stoop for 24 hours, or maybe you invite a friend over for socially distanced drinks. If doing too much too fast feels like it’s too much and is causing stress, identify the small change that you feel comfortable making.
At the end of the day this whole pandemic thing is new to all of us. We are all on the same journey, just trying to make from one day to the next. We do not know what is right and what is wrong at any given moment.
It is OKAY to feel apprehensive and uncertain. It is OKAY to continue to feel overwhelmed. It is OKAY to worry about your kids needing socialization.
Part of what we need to do is take the dialogues we are having in our heads and make them explicit. Talk about your concerns and comfort level with the people you want to engage with. Determine the boundaries ahead of time so you all feel comfortable. Most importantly remember there is no one-sized-fits-all model for “resuming normalcy” and it is OKAY to make the decisions that are best for you and your family.