In the last year, every living human has experienced some level of trauma related to the Covid-19 pandemic. From grief related to losing loved ones, to grief related to lost freedoms, social isolation and in many cases, a stark increase in interpersonal stress and a general increase in mental health challenges. Crisis hotlines have been slammed and mental health providers have been struggling to meet the demand for services. As the transition into the pandemic and its demands was a struggle, we can certainly expect the transition back to some normalcy to have its challenges as well. We are returning to social and interpersonal environments while carrying the collective trauma of the last year. Certain stressors will be returning and relational dynamics will certainly be challenging as well, we are out of practice and in many cases have strengthened or developed problematic coping behaviors. While there is healing in this process, healing more often than not requires an effort, intention and in many cases the willingness to lean in! Let’s take a look at some ways we can ease this process.
Our first step in bouncing back from the pandemic asks us to validate our experiences in the last year, to know that yes it was hard for most of us and that any feelings of stress, grief, anxiety or depression are warranted and are the product of processing challenging experiences. Along with this step towards validating our experience, we might also normalize our experiences. Many of us have struggled in some way shape or form and the data as collected by Mental Health America clearly shows this struggle. You are not alone in how challenging the year may have been and our struggles as broadly as they may range should be normalized. After all of the uncertainty, loss and struggle, our feelings and responses to those feelings are a normal reaction to this collective trauma and shared experience. In validating and normalizing our experiences, we can have compassion for the burdens we’ve been asked to carry and the healing that has begun to occur.
Next, it is important to name the challenges in returning to some level of normalcy. For many of us, we will be facing work and social environments that we have not been connected with in quite some time. This can bring up stressors, social anxiety, personal insecurities and even trigger old trauma as we begin to experience environments and relationships that have been lost during the pandemic. It may be wise to make an effort to pace yourself as you re-acclimate to these environments. Along with this, folks may have developed or experienced an increase in problematic coping behaviors as a result of coping with the pandemic. What did you struggle with before? Was it difficult to maintain boundaries that allowed for self-care? By naming these challenges, we can become more aware of how we might support ourselves in this transition. If we do not name these challenges, we may struggle with feelings that direct our behavior in ways that make the transition to some normalcy more difficult. If you are in therapy, you might work with your therapist to identify challenges, if you are not in therapy, you can practice this exercise on your own or with a trusted friend, partner or family member. Of course, if you anticipate this to be especially difficult, you can reach out to a therapist that can walk you through this process. What post-pandemic challenges will you be facing?
Finally, it is important to make a plan, will you need to pace yourself in this transition, will you need to practice additional self-care, have concrete boundaries or will you need to connect with supportive persons? There may be an inclination to experience a bit of a social binge, pacing yourself, setting boundaries and practicing self-care will allow for this process to be much smoother. You might identify some of the thoughts, fears or anxieties that you are having and challenge any aspects of this narrative that might be unhelpful or untrue. With a plan, you can get clear about how to make this transition the smoothest. In that we’ve all experienced this trauma together, please remember to be kind, while most of us have struggled in some way shape or form during the pandemic, you never know what the person next to you in line at the store has been through, kindness begets kindness and the world could use a whole lot more these days, we are still in this together!
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” -Carl Jung
“I consider myself to be genuine, compassionate and enthusiastic about the work that I do. Specializing in working with men from all walks of life, I strive to provide exceptional psychotherapy tailored specifically to each individual client and their unique needs. From time to time, I work with co-therapist in training, Cooper a French Bulldog Puppy. As co-owner of Elevated Counseling & Wellness, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.”
Craig Freund MA, LPC is a former intern from the Affordable Counseling Program. Craig currently is the co-owner of a group practice in Denver called Elevated Counseling. Craig is also the Vice President of the People House Board of Directors. Connect with Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720)515-3563.