Nervous About a Return to ‘Normal’? Psychiatrist Offers Some Tips
Apr 5, 2021
Emma Dugas
Dating couple talking with a two meters distance outdoors on a sunny day during a coronavirus pandemic

Does the thought of going back to “the way things were” before the pandemic fill you with fear? You aren’t alone.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently interviewed Mercedes Kwiatkowski, M.D., psychiatrist with the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, to understand why this may be and what to do about it.

“During the pandemic we had to adapt to huge changes in our daily routines,” said Dr. Kwiatkowski. “When we begin to transition back to our pre-pandemic normal it only makes sense that we will face a readjustment period that can leave us feeling nervous or uncertain.”

People may have a lingering sense of fear about contracting COVID or being in crowds, even if they are vaccinated. Social obligations can feel forced after a year of limited in-person interactions.

“The sheer pressure of a packed schedule can feel overwhelming,” said Dr. Kwiatkowski. “But I remind my patients that anticipatory anxiety is often worse than the reality of the situation.”

So her advice is to start small and go slow.

“If you have to go back to an office or school setting try going back to the campus first and see what that feels like,” Dr. Kwiatkowski advised. “Also, it’s important to still take the steps that make you feel safe, like washing your hands and wearing a mask.”

She also suggests prioritizing the activities with the highest potential reward. “Social interaction and human connection is hugely important to our wellbeing,” reminds Dr. Kwiatkowski. “So you might want to try connecting in-person with one friend you haven’t seen, outdoors and with masks on.” The emotional boost can help you overcome hesitancy about resuming other parts of your routine.

Finally, Dr. Kwiatkowski recommends taking time to reflect on lifestyle changes from the past year that you might want to maintain.

“Being intentional in your obligations and commitments can make your new schedule better tailored to your values than it was before.”

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