5 tips from mental health experts on transitioning out of COVID restrictions
With vaccines widely available and the number of cases declining, cities across the United States are dropping restrictions and focusing on “getting back to normal” for the summer. But for many – after more than a year of isolation – “normal” is scary. Experts say we need to talk more about what the transition to a more open society will be – and what our new normal will look like.
Here are some tips on how to do just that, from Riana Elyse Anderson, a psychologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, and psychiatrist Dr. Jessi Gold, from Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis.
FIND THE RIGHT MANAGEMENT SKILLS
People need to recognize their anxiety and find the best coping skills to move forward.
But how do you find these adaptive capacities? Anderson says even people who had reliable coping methods before the pandemic might find that they don’t work now. It’s important to assess whether coping skills are still working for you, and if not, to explore others – on your own or with a mental health professional.
“Cooking for me was something that was a great stress reliever. I would come home, cook a meal, and now if I have to look at another pot, I don’t know what I’m going to do, ”Anderson said.
SIGN UP TO FIND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH “BASE”
Gold says during the pandemic our baseline stress changed. Things that didn’t cause us stress before the pandemic could be difficult to deal with now, and vice versa.
“Our baseline mental health, our baseline stress for everything is very different from what it was for everyone. And you just have to be aware of that and be okay with it, ”Gold said.
ASSESS YOUR FEELINGS – ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS
It’s important to pay attention to these changes and make new assessments of what’s stressful and how you deal with it, as our workplaces and communities adjust. You don’t have to make adjustments all at once. Anderson says after the kind of constant stress we’ve experienced over the past year, these reactions are normal.
FIND A COMMON GROUND
During the pandemic and as sites reopen, people have varying levels of personal security. When interacting with people who have reacted differently to the health threat, Anderson says it’s important to find common ground. But in the same way, Gold says, it’s also important to set limits.
“You build borders to a certain capacity and the level of that border is up to you,” Gold said. “You can put limits around conversation topics, ie I still love this person as a human and I’m not going to fully judge anything I’ve ever known about them.” my whole life or however long your life I know them from what they are doing now. “
HAVE MORE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
Gold says mental health conversations need to happen more often and be less below the surface. And instead of trying to get back to ‘normal’, we need to deal with what happened during the pandemic and beyond.
“I think we’ll be in a place where we’re all in a better, healthier place if we can talk about things, including our feelings, out loud,” Gold said.
Watch the full conversation on mental health and counseling as states continue to reopen here.