(212) 286-8801

Four Tips for Navigating Reentry to an Endemic World

Posted on: May 9th, 2022 by Jackie Siegal, LCSW

The challenges brought about by two and a half years of COVID caused undeniable changes in our lives. From being social individuals accustomed to “face to face” interactions, we shifted to masking, social distancing and working from home. Instead of socializing, planning vacations, outings, family celebrations, dinner parties, etc., we canceled travel plans, “risky” close contact, and all broader social events. At the height of the pandemic, we were forced to give very careful consideration to the risks of any encounter with the outside world, close family members, friends, or coworkers.

Thankfully, getting fully vaccinated and boosted, along with the development of antiviral medications and increased immunity, has brought us some peace of mind. But the virus is not gone, nor are our concerns about infecting ourselves and others. We are not yet able to let our guard fully down. This new situation requires a conscious mindset reset.

During the pandemic we unfortunately got used to this abnormal state of loneliness, but connection to other people, family, friends, and the greater community, are fundamental to our well-being. Therefore, we must find a way to consciously protect our physical and mental health at this moment of reentry to society and as Covid statistics continue to fluctuate.

Contemplating a reentry plan

Consider preparing a simple reentry plan of action that works for you and is based on the four following points:

  1. First, whenever possible, continue your behavior of keeping up with all health measures; masking in public transportation, closed rooms, and large events, hand washing and sanitizing. Live your life and participate, but don’t fully let your guard down.
  2. Second, the reopening of health clubs and gyms give us the opportunity to restart physical activities that increase our feelings of personal satisfaction and physical health. Physical activities, especially walking, plus good nutrition is the basis for a healthy return to normalcy. In other words, get moving.
  3. Third, the last two years required us to follow CDC rigid instructions, but now there are no strict rules, and our behavior is left to our own discretion. We must find our own individual path towards personal comfort and calculate our individual risk-benefit in situations. We must reach a point of self-assurance in our personal choices that will allow us to be a participating member of society and nonjudgmentally accept others for the choices they make.
  4. Fourth, practice acceptance. The pandemic had major implications on our lives that we will feel for years to come. However, they weren’t all negative. We learned to slow down, smell the roses, and cherish what we took for granted. In the workplace, men and women want more work-life balance and more opportunities to work from home, at least part time. The ideal path is to accept change and find balance in our behavior going forward. We must acknowledge the dangers of the virus, appropriately protect ourselves by engaging in healthy behaviors to minimize potential infection, while avoiding overreaction by allowing COVID to fully dominate our life.

We now know that mental health concerns, loneliness and burnout brought about by the restrictions of quarantining and social distancing are not so easily resolved.

Consider therapy

If you continue to feel added stress, anxiety, and fear, while navigating the renewed process of returning to office, school, travel, and social events, then try to access some mental health resources. During the pandemic, virtual therapy has become very popular and helpful offering treatment in the privacy of your home with comparable results. A professional therapist could help you eliminate the large and small barriers that you may encounter on your way back to finding joy, connecting with co-workers, friends, and family, and transitioning to this new situation of almost, but not quite “normalcy” just yet.