As the coronavirus case curves continue to flatten and decline, restrictions placed on our lives are beginning to ease. While we will still need to be careful for quite some time, the small steps toward the freedom we once enjoyed are encouraging.
It’s natural to have some anxiety during this time, especially if you have uncertainty in both your personal and professional lives. You and your spouse may have had a very rough experience because of the quarantine. Maybe you were furloughed from your job or the company closed. Maybe you saw friends or loved ones sicken or die. Or maybe you saw people on social media who used the quarantine time to master yoga, read 100 books, or repaint their NYC condo.
My first word of advice to you: do not compare your quarantine experience to anyone else’s. You have no idea what other factors were going on in other people’s lives. Remember, people generally only share the best parts of their lives on social media. Therefore, focus on your own situation and how to begin to get back to a healthy place emotionally, physically, and relationally.
Continue to take precautions
It’s important to continue to follow the reasonable guidelines of healthcare professionals. In most instances, we are being asked to wear face masks and maintain a social distance of six feet when in public. Even as these requirements ease, if you feel more comfortable going out with a mask on, by all means, continue to follow whatever precautions you feel safest using, even if they are not required.
Maintain your physical and mental health
It’s reasonable to have mixed emotions as restrictions are lifted. You may continue to worry about your own health and the health of loved ones. Or, on the flip side, people you know may continue to have worries when you don’t, which could cause hurt feelings and strained relationships.
Maintaining emotional and physical health now is, for the most part, the same as any other time. However, keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to stressors, and we’re all under stress. Try not to allow yourself to be hurt by those who do not understand your precautions, and try not to be hurt when others are more cautious than you think is necessary. We will all get past this soon, and you do not want to damage any relationships over the level of health precautions you and others are taking.
Your mental health and physical health are very closely intertwined. Good sleep habits and healthy nutrition are critical for good mental and emotional health. Certain mineral deficiencies, such as being low in iron or B12, can cause low moods. Excessive caffeine can make you jittery. Drinking, smoking, and other substances are often used to help a person cope but can develop into serious health problems. If you haven’t started to use them, don’t. If you have started to use them, stop. If you can’t stop easily, you may be developing an addiction, and I recommend you seek help. Freedom from addiction will have tremendous positive effects on your mental and physical health as well as your relationships.
Exercise is another necessity that is as good for your mind as it is for your body. Most of us, especially in New York City, have been forced to be cooped up. As coronavirus restrictions are being lifted, we are encouraged to get outside as long as we are maintaining social distance. Find some form of exercise that you enjoy that will lift your spirits and improve your health. If you can get outside, so much the better – vitamin D, which we get from the sun, is incredibly helpful to mind and body, improving both our mood and cell function.
Coping with your career and finances
Financial difficulty is a serious stressor that you may be struggling with right now. Fortunately, the government has set up a number of programs specifically to help people get back to work quickly, there is reasonable hope that the situation will start to improve.
Reach out to your bank or local government office to see what programs you may qualify for. Doing so may give you some sense of control, which, along with the other techniques I mentioned above, is a powerful way to limit your emotional stress due to financial difficulties.
Remember that if you find yourself ruminating – thinking about fears or worries for an extended time – “switch the channel” in your thoughts. Consciously make the decision to think about something else. You may want to put on a movie or pick up a book you really enjoy to get your mind onto happier thoughts.
Keep moving forward every single day. Take daily steps to begin to get back to normal, at a pace you feel comfortable with. And as I said in my first word of advice, I say again in my last word – don’t compare your quarantine experience with anyone else’s. Focus on you and your loved ones, and on making the transition to normalcy as pleasant as possible.