Taking Life at My Own Pace: How I’m Managing the Return to “Normal”

Hannah Williams
Hannah Williams

If you would have told me in March of 2020 that in a little over a year, I’d be graduating, moving to a new city, and starting my first full-time job all in the span of a few weeks, I would have never believed you. And if you told me on top of all of that that I’d be accomplishing these things in the middle of a pandemic, I honestly would have laughed. As someone who loves nothing more than a routine, and who tries to avoid change whenever possible, COVID-19 turned my world upside down. While I was fortunate enough to remain healthy throughout the pandemic, and to still have my family and friends with me, like many others, COVID took a toll on my mental health. Now, with vaccinations available and the world slowly returning to what many consider normal, I’m having to re-learn many aspects of life that used to come naturally, while also balancing new things, like living in a city alone, working a full-time job, and stepping outside of my comfort zone in a way that I feel safe with.

In case you’re feeling like I am, here are some ideas I’ve used to help me deal with the transition from virtual to in-person life thanks to Active Minds’ Life at Your Pace hub!

1. Be your own biggest advocate.

It’s so important to learn how to advocate for yourself at your job, in your home, and with your friends. If your friends are planning a night out and you’re not feeling comfortable in large group settings yet, you have the right to pass on those plans, and instead suggest a quiet night-in for another day. If you are feeling burnt-out from working from home, be sure to schedule a brief daily walk to break up the day, or ask your co-workers for tips on how they maintain good work-life balance. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you need it; no one knows you better than yourself!

2. Feeling anxiety about socializing in-person again is normal. Find ways to manage your feelings that work for you!

As someone living in a new place, I get how tough it can feel to reach out to people. The thought of planning a face-to-face hangout with someone I don’t know that well is intimidating. One way that I’ve found has worked for me is to pick a place that is familiar for your first time meeting up with someone in a while. Whether that is a favorite restaurant, a nearby park, or even your living room, knowing what to expect when you show up somewhere can be comforting. Other ways to get back into socializing can be FaceTime hangouts, doing something that requires minimal small talk, like a movie, or hanging out in a group where you don’t feel the need to carry the conversation the entire time.

3. Starting something new can be both exciting and scary. Be confident in your skills!

Whether you’re starting school, beginning an internship, or heading to a new job, you may feel an overwhelming rush of different emotions. These experiences can be exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, and joyful all at the same time. As someone who recently started her first full-time job, and during a pandemic nonetheless, imposter syndrome is real. And it can feel even more tangible when you’re beginning a new role from home, physically separated from the rest of your team. Adding to the normal stresses of starting something new, you also may have anxieties about what returning to in-person work may be like, building meaningful relationships virtually, and developing a successful routine for at-home work. Throughout these difficult feelings, remember that you are capable of whatever you are taking on, and don’t hesitate to seek out resources to help with the days that feel hard to manage.

4. Celebrate your daily wins.

Did you learn how to cook a new meal? Have a really successful meeting at work? Set a boundary that was difficult? Celebrate! Ways of celebrating yourself can be as small as taking time to read that new book that’s been on your shelf forever, or as big as taking yourself out to a nice meal. As the world starts to re-open, it’s normal to feel “behind” or caught up in comparing yourself to others. Remember that your journey is your own, and that any victory is big enough to celebrate. You have accomplished so much just by making it through an incredibly difficult time, and you deserve to take pride in your daily accomplishments, big or small.

5. Don’t forget about your self-care!

One positive result of COVID-19 was a renewed emphasis on self-care. As the world slowed down, and we found ourselves with more time on our hands for ourselves, many people found comfort in a self-care routine that helped them feel physically and mentally healthy. Even though many of us are returning to work in-person, spending more time outside our homes, and seeing loved ones more often, make it a priority to maintain your self-care routine. Whether that’s keeping your living space clean, taking time to read or journal every day, or exercising outside, schedule that personal time into your morning or evening the same way you would plan for a meeting or big deadline. You’ll thank yourself for this!

6. Check in with those around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It can be easy to feel like everyone around you has it all together. However, we all need someone to check-in with us, and we all need a circle of support. Remember to make time to connect with those around you, such as your family, friends, and coworkers, and don’t feel ashamed if you need some extra encouragement every once in a while. We’re all in this together, and we will make it through this time of uncertainty!

As many of us return to work, school, and somewhat of a “normal” life, don’t be afraid to seek out resources to help with your transition. The Life at Your Pace hub exists for that exact reason, and we encourage you to check it out. Remember you are not alone, and you will conquer whatever challenges may come your way.