5 Tips for Getting Back to Normal After COVID-19 Restrictions

Most states have lifted all or nearly all of their restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Ohio lifted all of its health orders on Wednesday, June 2. While some states and individual businesses can set health restrictions, most places have removed their requirements for wearing masks, limiting gatherings to small numbers of people and limiting the capacities of retail establishments. As life gets back to some semblance of normal, mental health experts warn that people could have difficulty with the adjustment. Here are five tips on how to protect your mental health as your life returns to normal from the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Develop Healthy Coping Skills

During the pandemic, you may have developed some coping skills that weren't healthy. Perhaps you started baking bread, which led to you eating the whole loaf every time. Maybe you quit going to the gym or pool, and now you're out of shape. Start some new, healthy coping skills. For example, when you feel anxious about going into a store where people aren't wearing masks, you can wear your own mask. You can go at a time that's less crowded, or you could do a curbside pickup.

2. Know Your Baseline Stress Level

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of stress. For others, they felt more at ease working from home, avoiding crowds, skipping holidays with the parents or in-laws and ordering groceries online for a porch drop-off. Now that things are back to normal, those people might feel anxious about returning to their cubicle, riding the train to work or being expected to socialize at restaurants, bars and family gatherings again. Know your baseline stress level, and understand when you need to say no or take a break.

3. Evaluate How You Feel

Check in with yourself daily. Be mindful about your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the tough feelings. There are no "wrong" feelings. All emotions are within the range of normal human functioning and behavior. It's how you react to feelings that matters.

4. Find Common Ground

Your sister wants you to come to your nephew's graduation party, and 300 people are invited. You're not up for crowds yet. Ask if you can come an hour early. Find out if you can stop by the next day with a gift, and assist with the cleanup.

5. Talk About Mental Health

The pandemic brought mental health into the limelight. It should stay there. For decades, mental health has gotten the short shrift in terms of funding, respect and attention. Talking about your mental health will encourage others to do the same thing.

Bonus Tip: Gently Breaking Up With Your Therapist

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people started to visit a counselor or therapist in order to deal with the added stress, anxiety, fear, depression or panic caused by the global situation. As life gets back to normal, those symptoms may lessen. However, it's not a good idea to just go cold turkey with therapy or counseling. The transition of going back to the way things used to be could take a lot out of you. It could be as stressful as the onset of the pandemic. If you lost a loved one from COVID-19 or you endured other pandemic-related trauma, such as the loss of a job or the loss of a meaningful friendship, it's a good idea to continue your therapy long enough to get your mental state into a good place.

On the other hand, if you entered therapy due to a job loss, but now you've found a job you're happy with, you may not need to continue therapy. A simple last session to summarize your new coping strategies and set yourself up for improved self-confidence may be all that you need.

Make your exit from therapy a planned one. A closing session will give you resolution. Keep in mind that most counselors and therapists will allow you to decrease the frequency of your visits over a period of a few months. This will help you prepare for living a better quality of life. If you have been attending once-per-week telehealth therapy sessions, consider going once every two weeks for a month or two, then once a month for a month or two, then schedule your final session. This sort of weaning will help you test your ability to manage your feelings in a changed world.

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