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Strategies and Tips for Adjusting After COVID-19 Distancing

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As we continue to think about adjusting after social distancing, it is common to feel either dread or excitement – or both – as the rhythms of “normal” life return. As you transition back to the office, or as kids return to school, practice being mindful of what you may need to help you in returning to a sense of stability again.

Strategy #1: Pay attention to how you feel.

As you navigate upcoming changes, tend to your emotional needs.

  • As it’s possible, observe and name your feelings as you experience them. This will help you have more compassion for yourself as well as the experience of others.
  • Know that you are not alone – others will be feeling similar things during this time.
  • Practice gratitude for small or big ways you have endured stay-at-home mandates as you transition back to your pre-coronavirus routines. Make a list of all the challenges you’ve navigated. Share with a friend or colleague.
  • Take time to acknowledge what you’re looking forward to, what you’re worried about, and what you’re curious about regarding what’s ahead.
  • Aim to be gentle and compassionate with yourself, as well as others, as you move through these changes.

Strategy #2: Identify your boundaries, and how you’ll respond to others’ boundaries.

Holding boundaries and honoring others’ boundaries can help support individual and collective well-being during this time.

  • Think about what level of social proximity and behavior feels safe to you right now. You have the power to decide whether or not to accept a hug, whether to leave your mask on or off, etc.
  • To help solidify your confidence in your own boundaries, you can experiment or practice with stating your boundary out loud.
  • There is a huge diversity of experiences related to COVID-19, and people will be holding a variety of boundaries for different reasons. It can help to approach others with curiosity and compassion.

Strategy #3: Reacclimate yourself purposefully.

Recognize that acclimating to less physical distancing and increased social exposure will take time.

  • Be intentional about planning some activities that you enjoyed before quarantine to help regain some sense of normalcy after quarantine. Try some “test runs.” Get some social gatherings on your calendar once it’s safe to do so. Consider visiting a store you’ve been wanting to go to, take a day trip, visit family, etc. to help you slowly re-acclimate to a less physically distant social life. If your anxiety increases, slow your pace, or try re-acclimating in smaller doses.
  • For some of us, a stay-at-home order (aside from its cause) was a welcome experience, and the idea of jumping back into physically closer social interactions may feel intimidating. Pace yourself and make sure to continue to build in “me time” to recharge if you find these changes draining.
  • Take some time to remember what life at the office was like to help you mentally prepare for the shift back.

Strategy #4: Prepare yourself for upcoming work changes.

Be prepared to be both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by your own and others’ reactions in returning to office life.

  • Prior to going back, begin to approach your remote workday as you would in the office. Prioritize waking up early enough to navigate your commute, dressing for work, taking breaks and lunch as you would at the office
  • As you move closer to returning to the office, consider establishing (or re-establishing) routines to support this significant change (e.g., setting out work clothes the night before, prepping school backpacks and lunches, etc.)
  • Before your first day back in the office, prepare for work travel (gas in the car, locate your transit pass), and gather your work-related items (computer, security badge, phone, etc.) in one place so they’re ready for you that morning. It’s likely you’ll be feeling quite a bit (whether aware of it or not), and so it may be harder to think or locate familiar items that morning.

Strategy #5: Acknowledge the disruption.

Be sensitive to yourself, coworkers, and loved ones during this time. They may be more worried or anxious than they appear about moving back to in-office work after a break, and navigating emotions related to friends or family that have been impacted by Covid-19. Create regular opportunities to check in with one another.

  • Check in with your family members about any roles or tasks that have been shifted or disrupted. Reevaluate your family’s needs and divide tasks as appropriate. Communicating with one another about expectations and navigating differences proactively can save heart ache and conflict later.
  • If you are a parent, depending on the age of your child, they may have gotten attached to spending more hours in person with you. Talk with them about the transition and set aside a little more time than usual to connect with them as you return to an in-office work routine.

Questions for reflection

  • What positive experiences can you take from your remote work that you’d like to incorporate when returning to the office?
  • What are you looking forward to? What are you not looking forward to?
  • What helps you feel most like yourself? (Going to the gym, meeting friends for dinner, etc.)
  • What routines did you have prior to being remote?
  • If you are feeling anxious about returning to the office, what might be contributing to those feelings?
  • What forms of self-care did you discover and practice through the pandemic that were helpful that you’d like to continue as your routine changes again?

Self-care actions to support your health and resilience

  • Get good sleep – sleep health is critical to optimal immune function and our ability to navigate change.
  • As it’s possible, eat nutrient-rich foods and prioritize a healthy diet. Your diet provides necessary energy for your mind and body to be well
  • As much as possible, try and create consistent anchors in your day by waking and going to bed and eating at around the same time each day. This sense of routine helps your body to regulate in times of transition and change.
  • Stay hydrated. It helps keep our whole system functioning optimally.
  • For help with managing emotional responses and navigating the return to in-office work and other transitions, call Wellspring EAP to talk with a counselor.
  • Review the emotional safety and resilience tips below to increase your self-care options.
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