Although ‘returning to normal’ is something you may have been looking forward to, we know that many of you are struggling with both expected, and unexpected hurdles to moving to a new post-pandemic routine.
Whatever situation you may find yourself in, we have some key things to keep in mind if this is you and things are feeling heavy right now.
Restrictions ending may feel more intimidating than freeing for you - and that’s okay!
Maybe you got used to self-isolating? Maybe restrictions meant that you experienced a lot less FOMO (fear of missing out) because there's been little to be missing out on? Or maybe, you struggled with social anxiety previously and you’ve found comfort in a slower, more isolated day-to-day routine.
It’s understandable if you’re feeling this way! You are able to take your time when it comes to returning to a more sociable life, so it’s okay to set the boundaries that you need to, even with family members and friends.
Remind yourself that if you ever start to feel overwhelmed, you are always able to find a pocket of private space away from the rest of the world, and give yourself the mental separation you need to decompress. Just take five minutes in the quiet and breathe.
You may feel a mix of emotions, or different emotions at different times.
Uncertainty has been constant since the beginning of the pandemic. The news changes, policies change, decisions around testing and isolation requirements where you study may change, and almost nothing feels predictable anymore. With so much up in the air, it’s understandable if you’re dealing with some unexpected emotional turmoil.
You may be feeling utterly exhausted, or struggling to stay focused or find motivation. Maybe you are triggered more easily by the actions of others, or find yourself feeling sad for no specific reason.
There's no 'normal' response to these big changes. The last two years have taken a physical and emotional toll on everyone, and what we are experiencing now is a ‘collective trauma’. This means that your mental health may be affected by lots of things that are outside of your control. It might not feel logical, but know you are not alone. It will take time for many of us to reflect, adapt and recalibrate.
If this is you and you want someone to talk to anonymously with no judgments, TalkCampus is a safe place for you to connect with other students who understand how hard things are right now.
Social confidence is like a muscle, you can and will build your strength back!
For those who have struggled with social anxiety pre-pandemic, you may have put in huge amounts of work to get to the point where you could give a presentation, attend a social event, or put your hand up to ask a question in a lecture. You may feel like you’re very out of practice, and like you will be back at square one all over again.
While it may feel like you need to relearn how to socialise, the truth is that this is just a setback, it’s not permanent. You just need to gradually practice socialising again and your social skills will come back to you.
You don’t need to immediately push yourself to meet up with a large group or go out somewhere where there’ll be lots of people. Start by meeting one person for a coffee, and do this with people you feel comfortable with until your worries have subsided. Then, you can work your way up to bigger groups of people and larger occasions.
You may feel awkward at first, but just because you feel rusty or nervous doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re getting back out there.
Talking about your anxiety with others can really help to provide some relief. Before you meet up with friends or family, reach out to them and tell them that you’re feeling nervous about meeting again. They can give you reassurance, or maybe even let you know if they’re feeling the same.
It’s important to set realistic expectations
The last 2 years have been hard, and for a lot of us, we’ve spent it idealizing what post-pandemic life will feel like. And now that we’re here, there are disappointments and unexpected challenges,
Try not to expect that everything will go back to just how it was before as this may only lead to feeling disappointed, frustrated, and even angry. Try not to force yourself to keep up with others who may be adapting at a quicker pace.
Be ready for some anxiety - it’s a natural reaction to a very unnatural situation. Remember that our brains and bodies have been feeling fatigued for some time, and introducing new circumstances and routines will always present challenges. Remember that you don’t need to pick up exactly where you left off.
Try and set out intentions for each day that are achievable. Take your time easing back into the outside world remembering that you are in control of what you feel comfortable doing.
And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling the way that you think that you should be. Remember that we’re all a little freaked out. We’re all a little scared! We’ve been through the kind of thing that happens in movies, on TV shows, or in books. This is a challenging time, but you are resilient and you will adapt again. Until then, be patient and kind with yourself.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by recent changes or by the prospect of jumping back into your pre-lockdown life, remind yourself that it’s normal to expect a hefty adjustment period. Keeping this in mind can lead to more realistic expectations, as well as greater compassion for yourself and others who might be struggling. Allowing some downtime and leeway for bad days will facilitate a quicker and smoother readjustment. Always reach out for support if you need it, from family, friends, your university or college, or on TalkCampus.
Some more advice from our TalkCampus Community
“Listen to your body. Everyone will have different levels of comfort, try not to feel bad if you’re not ready to go out to eat or go shopping, or if your habits have changed after lockdown. Do what’s best for you, always.”
“Do little steps at a time. Day one, go out for a walk. Day two, pop into a shop, day three go for lunch with a friend. Slowly getting back into the rhythm of normal life will make it easier to adjust to and will be less stressful than trying to do everything at once!”
“Treat and love yourself well. Have a social connection with friends and family. Also, have a list of small goals to keep you moving forward”.
“No matter what, put your mental health first and seek help if you need to. The very first thing is accepting that you are not okay, or something is not okay. That’s powerful, acknowledging the issue itself. Then comes talking about it, and opening up instead of pushing it inside you”.