May 2, 2021
Dear Resident and Families,
As we begin to change guidelines for vaccinated people, many of us are beginning to do things that we haven’t done for over a year! Maybe for you, it is attending more live activities, or going out with family to restaurants, or planning a trip to be with children in other cities. You may be excited about the changes, but you may also be a bit hesitant. You might even be like me – a little anxious. After speaking to many residents about how their hesitancy, I thought I would share this letter I sent to our staff last week.
My daughter is a 3rd-year medical student. Recently, we were talking about going to a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. I had a little meltdown and said, “I am not ready for that.” This was not the first time I said these words. She told me that she felt I had a little bit of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, Jordan “diagnosing” is nothing new; she has been doing that since she was a child. As much as I fought this label, I kept coming back to it. Was she on to something? Why was it that I had such a strong reaction to something I enjoyed pre-COVID? How did my favorite hobby become something that made me afraid?
Jordan shared an article with me from the New York Times that helped me understand what was happening and why I seemed to be stuck in the land between COVID and post- COVID. I want to share a few highlights with you. Christina Caron shared several tips and you can read them by clicking here (or go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/well/mind/covid-back-to-normal.html)
If you don’t want to jump into the pool, dip your toe in first.
In my example of restaurants, jumping in might be going to a crowded restaurant and eating indoors, whereas dipping my toe may be dining outdoors or at a place that has excellent COVID protocols. Maybe inviting fully vaccinated friends over for dinner at my house is the first step. Think of what you want to do again and break it down into 2-4 steps to get you back there. The important thing is to start somewhere: Anxiety is maintained by avoidance and driven by uncertainty. Start somewhere.
Don’t wait for the anxiety to go away.
Waiting for anxiety to magically go away is probably not be realistic. Anxiety doesn’t mean that you are in danger or that something is wrong. You can train yourself to lean into fear. Train your nervous system to recognize that you are not in danger by doing the very activities that might make you a little anxious. If you become anxious, try to stay there until the anxiety starts to fade. In my example, I can reduce my stress by following all the safety protocols, such as wearing a mask when not eating and making sure I am distant from other diners.
You do not have to replicate what you did in the “before times.”
Even though 2020 was a challenging year, there are things I did enjoy. I don’t have to rush back to the hectic schedule and fast pace. As for me, I never have enjoyed shopping. Why would I ever give up Clicklist? Also, working at home has allowed me to walk more and drink more water. How can I keep that habit alive in a post-COVID world?
Prioritize activities that help reduce anxiety.
Speaking of water and walking, these activities also reduce anxiety. Real science tells us that when you are active, you elevate the concentration of all good neurotransmitters and neurohormones that we have that help us feel better, feel calmer, feel less anxious. What are the activities or habits you want to change or build upon?
I hope this reflection helps you as much as it has me. The world is opening up, and it is a beautiful thing. You may need to take it slow – baby steps. That is OK! You can work through our concerns and anxiety! And, we are here to help you.
Ask me in a few weeks what I did to get back to one of my favorite hobbies – eating out. Hold me accountable!
ERS President & CEO