So, this is it. After months of lockdown we are getting ready to re-join the world.
How do you feel about that? Relieved that the boredom or loneliness is over? Or are you a little pensive about what you will find?
Isolation is disorientating. Prolonged isolation affects your feelings about how your society is functioning right now, about your place in it, about your trust in it, about, perhaps, the odd ways in which your longing for it might have been manifesting. More than one person I have communicated with over the last few days has expressed some anxiety about being around people again. Many people have taken to referring to ‘old normal’ (i.e. pre-Covid) and the ‘new (emerging) normal’ as two different things.
Whatever the feelings you have about leaving isolation, they need to be taken into account as you find your way back into your post-lockdown life.
What’s waiting for you out there? Friends and family who will be happy to see you back in circulation? Do you have a workplace or business that is impatient for your return, with clients panting for your attention, or water-cooler conversations to be reheated? Are you fretting over missed opportunities? Are you one of the hard hit casual or freelance workers who has to try to find work to build up a depleted bank account?
Are you able to ease back into your life, or will you have to hit the ground running? How much agency do you have about your pace and style of re-entry?
Some of you will find the transition back easy. Some of you might be surprised at how hard it seems. Some of you know it will be an ordeal.
If you feel a bit tender or weird about getting back to ‘normal’ – if your prolonged isolation has disrupted or even recalibrated what normal means to you (for better or for worse) – then take it easy, if you can. (And I do acknowledge that some of you may have to hustle).
- Getting together with a friend to debrief. Choose someone who is a good listener, who will hear without judgement whatever it is that you have to blurt out.
- Write down your reactions. You may have already used journaling as a strategy to survive or enrich your time alone; keep using it. When you are no longer under the pressure of supporting yourself in a bizarre situation, then looking back and reflecting on an experience when it is over can furnish a fresh perspective.
- If your head is muddled, or your energies sapped, or your spirits depressed, then there is no shame in seeing a counselor.
We will all react differently but being compelled to live in isolation because of a global crisis is not an easy thing to last through. It may have left its mark on you. If the effect is negative, then do reach out for help. You deserve it. If the effect is ambivalent or positive, you may still need time to understand the ways in which your perspective has changed and how to come to terms with that. The special effort we have all put into caring for ourselves or each other during this time of distancing and isolation should not stop now. We need to help each other to pick up the pieces.