“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
– Dave Hollis.
Have you ever read a quote that’s so relevant, so personal, it feels as though it was written to you and you alone? That’s how we’ve felt seeing Dave Hollis’ quote floating around the internet in these past few weeks: personally attacked.
If you’re anything like us, the first few weeks of isolation were spent longing for the things we couldn’t do: our regular Pilates classes; Friday afternoon drinks with the girls; and, most importantly, leaving the kids at school for six-plus hours every weekday.
Now, as things slowly return to normal, and the busyness of our old lives comes more clearly into view, we’re choosing to look a little deeper at what we actually want to return to – and it’s bringing on a whole new kind of stress.
“Whilst most people would assume that returning back to normal would be a welcomed change, many people are suffering from what’s been coined as ‘post-isolation syndrome’ – the feelings of anxiety, nervousness and worry about reintegrating back into the world,” says Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno.
According to Nancy, we aren’t alone in feeling anxious about returning back to normal – all of our lives were essentially knocked off course, and we had to adapt to very quickly.
“Now, we’ve been asked to adapt again,” says Nancy. “We’ve had to grow accustomed to so many changes in such a short amount of time that we’ve all been knocked around a little.”
And try as we might to keep a lid on these anxious feelings, our own stress can rub off on those around us – particularly our kids, who are dealing with major disruption in their own lives, too.
“Children are particularly susceptible to feeling anxious during this time as they can find it harder to understand what is happening,” explains Nancy. “Add to that the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding their regular routines like school and play time with friends, plus the influence of your own worry or anxiety, and they tend to struggle with their intuitions and mimic the behaviour of those around them.”
So, where to from here? Nancy explains that the best way to help your children is to try to maintain a sense of normalcy where you can – which, we know, sounds impossible amidst a global pandemic.
But whilst there are a lot of changes to their routines, you can still try to keep some of their regular patterns in place. This might mean their play time session that was meant to be with their friends is now scheduled in with a parent or sibling. The same goes for after-school activities – if they’re usually at soccer on a Wednesday afternoon, encourage them to practice at home during that time instead.
“Overall, it’s important we focus on the things that we can control, whether it’s mindfulness, self-care, exercise, gratitude or creativity,” says Nancy. “It’s important to be kind to yourself during this time – this situation is completely new for all of us, so it’s okay to still be figuring things out.
“Take things at your own pace and try not to worry too much about how everyone else is reacting to the changes. Instead, expose yourself to your new surroundings at your own pace, if you can, and check in with your support network when you need to.”
Remember: this is a time for great learning, too. Spend some time reevaluating your life before and work out what is important to you. If you’ve found that working from home has allowed you to have a better work-life balance, look at ways that you might be able to keep this up. Perhaps it’s having an honest discussion with your boss and implementing shorter in-office hours, or days where you continue working from home?
“Also, be sure to keep prioritising the things that are making you feel good and actually schedule those things in your calendar,” says Nancy. “Whether you block out time for exercise or making yourself a hearty lunch, it’s these little things that will help maintain a healthier balance moving forward.”