How has this post-pandemic summer been for you, dumplings? The mounting concerns over the Delta variant aside, many areas have been lifting restrictions and social / professional life has resumed for most of us. In my city, outdoor and indoor parties, dining, sports, museums, and arts events have resumed. I’ve been getting multiple invitations to gatherings each week. Friends who work at offices have started to commute once more.
If all this reemergence activity has you feeling frazzled, you’re not alone. A March 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association reports that 49% of adults reported feeling anxiety about returning to in-person interactions after the pandemic. In China, over 10% of people exhibited symptoms of PTSD after reemergence. If you’re an introvert, the prospect of going back to the noise and forced interactions with large crowds is downright terrifying—so much so that the Washington Post even wrote about it. Furthermore, our stress response doesn’t always manifest during or immediately after trauma: we may exhibit symptoms long after the pandemic is officially over and we are supposed to be happy and positive.
In my own life, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the sudden increase in social interactions. I’ve made more new friends in the past two months than in the preceding two years. While that’s been exciting, it’s also led to feelings of a kind of emptiness at the end of the whirlwind—if you’re nodding your head, you’re an introvert, welcome to the club! Finally, the sense that I should now be much more productive has been making me anxious, as the combination of reemergence + traditional summer “fun” has not left a lot of mental space and time for getting stuff done. Friends have also reported more than the usual amount of ghosting and terrible online dating behavior; it appears that people are so eager to experience as much as possible that they’re forgetting how to act decently.
Without further ado, here’s what’s keeping me sane as I navigate the reemergence era.
Check in with yourself after new interactions and situations
This summer, I’ve already done a lot of things that I didn’t know I would be “into.” Going on a group bike ride with hundreds of others and drinking champagne? Check. Swimming at the dock with people I barely know? Check. Dance party in the middle of the Heat Dome (think 100°F at midnight)? Check. A lot of this was about saying Yes to new situations and people and seeing where life takes me. But afterwards, it’s beneficial to check in with myself and ask how I feel. Did I have fun? Did I enjoy socializing with certain people? Would I do this again? And it also helps to talk to a friend post-experiences to really figure out how I feel. Think of this as a digestion period to understand what these experiences mean to you, and whether you want to keep going.
You don’t have to say Yes to everything and everyone
Yes, the urge to be a good sport and accept every invitation post-pandemic is real. But think less about what you’re trying to prove to others (“I am fun! I am outgoing and adventurous!”) and more about what serves you the best. The reality is that very few people can say yes to everything. When it comes to opportunities, think quality versus quantity.
Find meaning in your experiences, painful or otherwise
Post-traumatic growth has to reach beyond resilience—it’s about processing your experiences and finding meaning. Instead of brute-forcing your way to feeling positive and upbeat, unpack what you dealt with, and how that experience ultimately makes you stronger and provides meaning. For example: I’ve made some social mistakes since the reemergence that I’m none too proud about. Instead of brushing those feelings under the rug, find time to sit with yourself in a comfortable, non-judgmental environment and recognize what this means for you going forward.
Keep the pandemic habits that you love
Return to “normal” doesn’t mean you can’t keep the positive discoveries during the pandemic. Did you start a fun new crafting hobby? Have you been exercising a lot more each day? Do you talk to your long-distance friends a lot more? There’s no need to get rid of your newfound passions—again, it’s about using the past year and a half as a time of growth, not something to forget.
Be patient with yourself
The key to reemergence from life-changing events is taking the time. People are largely creatures of inertia, and change is stressful whether it’s supposed to be negative or positive. Acknowledge that you’re dealing with macro stress and practice non-judgment toward yourself. Think less about what you’re supposed to feel, and give yourself permission to feel and be. Practice self-care and meditation to keep your spirit balanced and whole.
How are you dealing with reemergence?
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Photo: Kelsey Chance via Unsplash