Adjusting to the “new normal” is a necessary step for our mental health
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
For more than a year, restrictions imposed on us due to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to change our way of life. Habitual activities like parties, work and exercise have either been moved to virtual platforms or missed altogether. The need to decline an invitation due to the health risks of socialization can be called “the COVID excuse.” While the word “excuse” may sound harsh, it better represents the completely reasonable need to decline an invitation that could be perilous to one’s health.
However, as the pandemic slowly improves and vaccination rates rise, how much longer can this excuse last? This is an especially important inquiry considering the impact that a lack of social activity has had on our health. By no means am I advocating for risking your health, but the need to support your mental health must be balanced along with our distaste for modified gatherings, such as virtual or outdoor socializing. With laws and regulations loosening, it’s time to move away from “the COVID excuse” in order to restore our social lives, health and return to a new normal.
For many, the pandemic took away whatever level of social life one had maintained beforehand. Regardless of whether one was more introverted or extroverted to begin with, there was now no choice but to minimize social gatherings. Although virtual meetings were always an option, they were certainly not the same and discouraged many from trying such methods. For a prolonged period, we could return to the excuses, expressing that “it’s not the same” or questioning the point of even planning such events.
These responses are certainly understandable, as anxiety and fear about the potential of getting COVID have been omnipresent for quite some time. Yet, while these exchanges were beneficial in easing some fears and flattening the curve at the beginning of the pandemic, they now may be doing more harm than good.
Despite an emphasis on resources for mental health during initial lockdown periods, research still found that staying at home and personal distancing increased the prominence of depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress. When coupled with avoiding evolved ways of socializing, these behaviours simply compounded the general stress of the pandemic and led to severely worsened states of health for many.
The routines we took for granted on a regular basis, when drastically pulled out of our lives without warning, had a major impact on our wellbeing.
Although it will take time, we need to gradually make our way into the “new normal” that may share some qualities of how we lived before, while evolving to include public health measures that are keeping us safe. This will be the key to bettering our health, as well as ebbing continuous fears about the virus. For example, instead of weekend brunches, try outdoor hikes. Outside activities are recognized to be safer in minimizing the spread of the coronavirus and the fresh air and exercise is always invaluable. Moreover, trips to the theater can be replaced with software that allows one to stream movies while on a group call. Of course, this is not the same as in-person plans.
However, the benefits to be gained from any socializing, whether it be virtual or real, trump any reservations about new methods of seeing our loved ones.
All in all, COVID-19 has completely changed the way we live our lives. Even though it may be easier to continuously blame COVID for avoiding pre-pandemic activities, it is vital to our wellbeing that we gradually work our way towards new routines. Even though it may be difficult at first, there is comfort in knowing that everyone is in similar situations and we can work together to construct a comfortable, safe and happy post-COVID world.