A Pandemic Ending

Pandemic Ending

A pandemic ending. Can it even be possible?

Only a year ago, the entire world was going into lockdown. True lockdown days where the government actually counted cars on the road to see if we were doing a good job in WA State of staying home. Except for a trip to the grocery store every now and again, you were meant to stay inside.

Although life became strange, the lockdown provided many with a reprieve from having to be social. Many who feel pressure to live up to others’ expectations no longer need worry about it. Family occasions came and went and there was no need to make uneasy excuses as to why you didn’t want to attend.

The pandemic of course. It allowed for many to have breathing room to slow down, not care so much, and be true to themselves.

A pandemic ending? Now what?

All of a sudden, with everyone soon vaccinated, people are going to be out and about wanting to gather socially. All of a sudden the pressure to keep up, discuss post-pandemic plans, and be with others is on. Even before it actually is over, everyone is chomping at the bit to make plans. It’s no longer a long breath moment of silence and hunkering down. Now it is all about the other and getting out into life.

But what if you aren’t ready? What if you want to stay in lock down a little bit longer or even a lot longer. What to do? Perhaps all of us found a space that felt new and different that we don’t quite want to give up as the pandemic ends. Perhaps you love cooking more or family game nights have become a tradition or working on your creative projects deserve your time. These all feel like easier things to keep as a part of your life even as life resumes to normalcy.

How about drawing boundaries with friends and family? Now that everyone is going to be able to actually see their dear ones without a pandemic looming over us, what if you don’t feel like rushing out to be with everyone? How to handle? Being honest with one’s self seems to be the start. On your own, what did you learn about yourself as far as the others you share time with? Perhaps this is the time to put in motion how to be with others and be true to yourself. Perhaps that is not seeing people, perhaps it is not spending as much time, perhaps it is saying no, perhaps it is saying yes. Having courage to interact with others out of new knowledge garnered while in lockdown feels important as the pandemic ending is about to unfold.

If you are grieving the end of the pandemic, it is perfectly normal. For over a year, we have found a new way to live life that was quite different than life before. Taking some time to think about the losses that you will endure as life resumes also feels important at this time. As we went into lockdown, I don’t think anyone saw that this was going to go on for over a year. We lived into it as it unfolded.

As we have more notice of the pandemic ending, grieving what is over and lost, preparing how you want to engage with the other, and determining what parts of your lockdown life you want to keep are all ways to prepare for coming out of lockdown and engaging in normal life over the next few months.

Social Distancing

Woman chats with someone via technology for social distance connection

According to ThoughtCo, Social Distance refers to “a measure of social separation between groups caused by perceived or real differences between groups of people as defined by well-known social categories.” This sounds very academic and, if you were to go on to read the rest of the article you would read about the different types of social distancing – mainly phenomena around separation of groups of people based on race, class, and more.

What? Social Distance actually has a theoretical frame and it doesn’t seem to be anything to do with our current pandemic where the idea of “social distancing” is being used to keep individuals apart to control spread of a virus in our communities. For this meaning, we have periodicals like the Atlantic Monthly giving you the “dos and don’ts” of social contact during this strange time.

I hear some people are taking it seriously and not leaving their homes and then others who are going out for some things, but have cut other things out (if it hasn’t already been out out for you, like school and work), and then others who are going about their life as normally as possible. Where I live in Seattle, WA, the guideline is to socially distant, but there has been no legal enforcement. Instead, people are given agency over their decision to distance from their friends and community.

It’s at times like these that we realize how much we need people or, at least, being out and about within our communities. I hear this is an introvert’s dream, but even introverts get out to do errands, work, drop their kids at school or go to school, work out, and more. To take away social interaction with others exerts a pressure for us to be alone for the good of the other. A bit of an oxymoron, right?

Some of the ramifications I see from this social distancing recommendation are the following:

  • Loneliness
  • Loss of connection
  • Stress on close relationships
  • Boredom
  • Lack of productivity
  • Inertia

One of the best ways to combat any and all of these feelings is to use technology to remain connected to our friends and family. We don’t normally think in this way to see our local friends, but it can really help stave off loneliness and isolation, to FaceTime our friends in lieu of meeting up for coffee, dinner, or drinks. You just have to think of it as a viable option and reach out and set a date. I have tried it a few times during the past few days, and it truly brightened my spirits and helped me to feel less isolated. Ah! My friends are out there experiencing all that I am. Sharing this with the other is critical.

So, what to do? Think about your friends, family, and others in your community. Now, reach out and ask if they would like to set a FaceTime date with you? Put it on your calendar, as you would any other event, and show up. Spend the time on-line connecting. Afterwards, check in with yourself and see how you feel. My guess is a lot less isolated and lonely. For me, a real sense of being in it together was felt in both my mind and body.

Even during these days of social distance, we can stay connected given the tech times we are living in – make sure to connect and encourage your partner, kids, and anyone else you know to do that same.

Dear Therapist: Winter Isolation

A Season of Loneliness?

Dear Therapist,

I am feeling isolated this season. It feels like I am spending more time on my own, at home, binging shows, cooking for one, and generally feeling isolated. Is there any way to alleviate my winter blues?

I get you – particularly after the snowy, cold week we have had in the Seattle area recently. The pattern almost feels painful. Get up, head to work, come home, eat dinner, watch shows, and head to bed. People are over the holiday merriment and the cold has burrowed in to make it hard to feel and/or stay connected.

What to do?

Most likely it’s going to take some energy to break the pattern, but you can choose community over isolation even during this season — even if you find it challenging.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Invite a group of friends over to watch your favorite shows together — or watch a show with a friend on-line using FaceTime or another similar service.
  2. Don’t go home right away after work. Perhaps pop into a book store or a coffee shop and take in the scene. Even if you don’t know anyone being a part of the hustle and bustle of the place will lift the feeling of isolation.
  3. Host a dinner party or a game night – make it potluck in terms of food and games.
  4. Catch a movie on the big screen – with friends or on your own. Again, being in a public place can do a lot to take you out of that felt sense of isolation.
  5. Volunteer — spend some time working on behalf of a cause you love. You will meet like-minded people and gain a sense of purpose

These are only a few of the ways that you can beat winter isolation. Anything that breaks your routine and puts you around people or involves your community will be helpful.

Spring is coming – the days are already lengthening. Winter’s grip will recede in due time. In the meantime, challenge yourself to stay connected.