It’s been more than a year since the world first went on a lockdown which we all thought would last six weeks, at most. Some borders and businesses have since reopened, but we’re still a long way from reclaiming our normal lives.
Major career shifts and big vacations have been in the backburner all this time, and some days you might wake up still feeling like the past year was all just a fever dream. All of us have suspended plans or made new ones about what we’re going to do when all this is over, but after a year making these ‘post-pandemic’ plans has started to feel like wishful thinking. Indeed, living through an important, historical time is exhausting when we have nary an idea about when it would end.
But now that the global vaccination program has started to roll out, the end of the tunnel is gradually coming into sight. It might be time to actually concretize our plans about how we plan to pick up where we left off in life before the pandemic hit. The problem is that we’ve all made adjustments to our daily lives to make the pandemic setup a bit more bearable. So how do we start all over again just as we’ve started to get comfortable with the way things are?
Here are some tips on how to pick up right where you left off before the pandemic changed our lives in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible:
1. Decide if you really want to go back to the way things were
This is the first and most important consideration to keep in mind. In spite of everything, the pandemic has given us enough time to reflect on the way we’ve been living life. Think back at how you felt about your old life when the pandemic got extended multiple times. Did you wish you could return to the way things were or did you wish you did things differently before you weren’t allowed to do much?
If it’s the former, then you’re on the right track planning how to pick up where you left off, but if it’s the latter, then you might have some serious thinking to do about how you want to do things differently this time. Hopefully, the COVID-19 crisis taught you that life is too short for you to do things that don’t make you happy.
2. Allow yourself enough time to grieve
All of us suffered losses — great or small — in the past year. Some of us lost a family member without getting the chance to say goodbye. New college students missed the entire campus experience in their freshman year. Some employees who were expecting major promotions were laid off instead.
You might want nothing more than to go back to the way things were, but there’s a chance that going back might no longer be an option. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grieve your pandemic losses, no matter how big or small they may be to what other people lost. Your feelings are valid, and only in addressing such pain can you truly move forward and start fresh.
3. Rediscover what makes you happy
What makes us happy is always relative to what we have at any given moment… At the height of the crisis, we were taught to be thankful and happy to just get by. While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the little things, you also owe it upon yourself to rediscover things that made you happy before all of this. One of the saddest things that could happen when the pandemic is over is for us to continue on living half-lives, content with the bare minimum of what life has to offer.
There was and still is more to life than just getting by, so rediscover things that made you feel happy and alive before the pandemic struck. The world will once again be for your taking soon, so be ready to do more of the things that make life worth living.
4. Let go of any unhealthy coping mechanisms
None of us should feel guilty about the things we did to keep ourselves well and sane during the worst of times, even if it’s something we never would have done if this virus never swept over the world the way it did.
If you started smoking or eating unhealthy to cope with pandemic stress, for instance, the only thing you have to do to moving forward is to learn to do better. When the pandemic is over, wean yourself of such unhealthy habits and try not to backslide. Again, be patient with yourself as you try to do better. This is a tough time to live through, and you’re doing amazing just by wanting to be better.
5. Continue newfound habits that are good for you
On the other hand, you might have also picked up some good habits that are worth holding on to. You might have learned to meditate or listen to podcasts that kept you simulated at the peak of pandemic boredom. If you found these things therapeutic and actually beneficial for your wellbeing,, then there’s no reason you should stop doing them when the pandemic ends.
6. Make time for hobbies that are gentle for the soul
The stress of the pandemic pushed many of us to learn new hobbies that are gentle for the soul like baking, maintaining a fish tank, or crocheting. These things are good for you, so hopefully you can revisit them every once in a while whenever your normal, pandemic-free life still becomes a bit too much. Keep in mind that not everything you do has to be monetized or ‘productive’ in its common sense. If spending hours watching sitcoms or Korean dramas on Netflix put your soul at ease during the pandemic, well then maybe you should do it more often as a form of self-care even when the global health crisis comes to an end.
7. Revisit your plans and bucket lists
You had to learn how to ‘live small’ to make room for the gargantuan crisis that upended life as we knew it. From dreaming about traveling the world, you now dream of surviving a trip to the crowded grocery stores without catching the virus. From dreaming about going on some big adventures, you now dream of making it another day without melting down from the pressure and restlessness of being held captive in your own room, which by the way has been doubling as your office, classroom, movie theater, and pretty much anyplace else you’re still not allowed to return to.
But the time has come for you to revisit your big plans — the very ones you had no choice but to put off because of the threat of COVID. Book that dream vacation. Hand over that resignation letter you held on to when the job market went to a standstill. Pack up everything you have and move to that city you’ve always wanted to live in. Rediscover your optimism and zest for life that the pandemic may have stolen from you for a while there. All the world is once again a stage, and you have the liberty to pick which role you want to play in it.
8. Reconnect with the people you want to keep
It is no doubt difficult to keep an active social life now that Zoom get-togethers have lost their initial charm and novelty, and just makes you pine for the good old times when you don’t have your friends’ laughter through the computer. But don’t be afraid to re-explore friendships and connections that may have fizzled out during the course of the pandemic. With your real friends, it won’t feel as if any time has passed since your last physical night out.
9. Take the lessons of the pandemic with you
Be kind to yourself. Learning how to do nothing is not only okay — it’s important. There are no escaping advancements in technology no matter how badly you want to hold on to the past. These are just some of the most important lessons the pandemic imparted to us all. As you pick up where you left off before this traumatic turn of events, make sure you bring these lessons with you. As they say, experience is the best teacher; and if nothing else, at least you have the wisdom to show for everything you had to sacrifice in the name of this pandemic.
10. Don’t be afraid to be happy
This might sound like a strange statement to you, but the thing about sadness or loneliness that hardly anyone ever talks about is how addicting it can be. There is a certain comfort that you may have associated with sadness, causing you to hold on to that feeling for as long as you can. But there is nothing healthy about sabotaging your own happiness because being perpetually lonely and pessimistic has become too comfortable. It might take a long while before you fully heal from the pandemic and feel genuinely happy again as you were before, but when that time comes, be prepared to embrace it. It’s easy and tempting to wallow in sadness because it requires very little of us other than feeling sorry for ourselves all the time. Allowing yourself to be happy is terrifying, especially since you now know how fleeting bliss can be, but it’s worth it.
To close with a few borrowed lines from Desiderata:
“…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”