The world has changed.
Most, or maybe all, countries in the world are now rolling out vaccines for the COVID-19 virus we’ve all been running from, hiding from, trying to protect ourselves from, for over a year now.
We’ve changed our habits as a society. We’ve limited gatherings of groups or stopped them from happening altogether. No big arenas filled to see music performers play at a concert, no large sports stadiums packed to see favourite teams, not even restaurants, or nightclubs, or bars filled to capacity.
My husband thinks maybe the world will never be able to go back to “full capacity.” Maybe there will always be stickers on the floors of supermarkets, coffee shops, banks, saying please keep your physical distance. Perhaps masks will be the norm and be part of life from now on, even with a vaccine.
Because who knows how long the effect of the vaccine lasts before we need another dose—six months? A year? And then everyone (or at least anyone sensible enough and cares about their own health and other people’s well-being) will have to get it again, over and over, for the rest of our lives, like the seasonal flu shot.
Will we ever be comfortable sitting close to other people? Hugging? Dancing cram-packed like sardines in a dark and noisy club? Is this the end of the world as we know it, as REM sang all those years ago?
And is that really a bad thing?
Yes, we human beings are social creatures. We need connection. We need to be around others. But do we need to be filled to the brim everywhere we go? Do we need to squeeze ourselves down narrow crowded streets, or bustling bazaars? Are we forever going to be keeping an eye out to see where the nearest hand sanitizer station is?
Are we prepared, mentally, for an unmasked (but probably still highly-sanitized) new world order? What do we need to bolster our resilience? Shore up our mental defences? Keep ourselves sane when we’ve had it up-to-here with Zooming and shouting at our friends at an over six-foot distance, instead of whispering quietly right next to each other?
Are we ready to give up our weapons of battle every time we go grocery shopping? Mask? Check. Sanitizer bottle or wipes? Check. Quiet parking lot? Check.
How long is it going to take for us not to flinch when we see people stopping and chatting with each other without having their safe bubble of distance around themselves, or standing cautiously out of (virus) harm’s way?
Is the world ever going to go back to “normal”? (If we can even call what it was like before springtime of 2020.)
And should it? Or should we continue our hypervigilance in this heightened state of pandemic awareness, where we feel that there’s always something lurking even if we can’t see it? Can our nervous systems cope, perpetually amped up in this fight-or-flight mode?
Who here will still wear masks for a while longer, even after being vaccinated? Who will be nervous about entering anywhere that isn’t our own home without some sort of face covering? Who will be reluctant to not have quick and easy access to the now ever-present hand sanitizer? And will we always keep a mini bottle in our handbags or pockets just for peace of mind?
Will we think it weird to one day see floors of businesses bare and not marked up with arrows telling us it’s a one-way system or to “stand here” with outlines of shoes?
This Covid pandemic has not only heightened our senses around cleanliness and comfort zones—where everything is sterile and separated by plexiglass—but it’s highlighted another pandemic, that of mental health and mental illness.
It’s highlighted our insecurities of our physical selves, where increased numbers of us are going for plastic surgery to change things we don’t like about ourselves after staring at our own faces for hours on end on Zoom in work meetings or virtual get-togethers with friends.
It’s highlighted that connections over a computer screen just aren’t cutting it over the real thing, in person, face-to-face.
It’s also highlighted a pandemic of loneliness, with our senior populations in care homes cut off from family visits. And that loneliness has migrated its way from the seniors, down to the rest of us who are starting to get squirrely with cabin fever; the loneliness is sweeping like a pall over all of us.
So, what can we do to boost our superpower of resilience to keep us moving forward into a post-pandemic world, whatever that will look like?
According to Psychology Today, here are nine ways to strengthen your resilience:
1. Embrace change. If there’s one that that you can be sure of in life, it’s change, so we might as well embrace it instead of run from it or trying to ignore it. And with COVID-19, we’ve certainly had our fair share of change!
2. Don’t dwell on negative thinking. Easier said than done, I know, but try to shift to thinking about something positive. Not all rainbows and unicorns positive, but we should do something calming like go for a walk, or get creative.
3. Know thyself. Acknowledge not only your weaknesses and fears but your strengths and talents as well. Know that you have superpowers inside you—you might just have to figure out what they are
4. Create goals. Start with small and manageable goals (get out of bed, change out of your PJs) and then work up to larger goals, and find a sense of purpose through your goals.
5. Take action. Take action with your goals and also with dealing with your issues and problems. Do some work and face your demons (or as has been said in the Buddhist tradition, have tea and cake with your demons).
6. Be optimistic. Remain hopeful that things will change (because, well, see point one above).
7. Have a sense of humor. Even when times are tough, having a sense of humour and being lighthearted can help us weather any storm.
8. Develop strong personal connections. Get support in whatever form you can get can; there are people who can help you through the ups and downs of life.
9. Take care of yourself. Self-care! Yes, it’s a buzzword, but all the clichés—you can’t pour from an empty cup, put your own oxygen mask on first, and so on—are true. And self-care doesn’t mean indulging in chocolate cake or bubble baths all the time (don’t I wish!). It’s whatever that one small thing is that helps you get through the day, week, or month.
So, how are you going to prepare to live in this brand new world? What superpowers are you going to activate?