This last year has looked quite different from all the years before. Some of us have been living and working in our home environment. Some of us have been receiving all of our human contact through electronic devices and online platforms. Some of us have not hugged anyone outside of our house in over a year. All of us have had to cope with a level of isolation/seclusion that we were never prepared for, are not built for, and now have to recover from.
We are all going to be required in the next few months to emerge from this challenge. I have received so many questions from individuals, families, and systems on how to successfully navigate this emergence. I want to provide you an explanation for why this has been so difficult for many of us. Many of us are soothed by community, connection, and belonging. This is an age-old, deeply historical way of coping with life’s stressors, in a group where we belong. Our limbic systems (the survival response to threat) activates under situations of fear, shock, and unfamiliarity. For many of us, fear, shock, and unfamiliarity is soothed by relationships and attachments, from day one when we come into the world and are held by those that were awaiting our entry.
For many of us, we have sat alone in fear for a year, without those we love to calm that fright. This pandemic (and its constant threat of death through human interaction) has made coping through our usual means of gathering, connecting, and belonging to a community impossible. We all have the opportunity to emerge now back into a pattern of coping through social interactions and connections.
This is going to feel clunky and strange, it may feel uncomfortable, frightening, or anxiety-provoking. Our limbic system fires under fear, shock, and lack of familiarity. This pandemic has made all that is familiar unfamiliar and all that was unfamiliar, familiar. Even still, we have to get back to the groups, to the gathering, to the meetings and the interactions and the hugs. Our brains and bodies need us to, for recovery. The only way we emerge is together and the only way we do this together is to emerge.
- Acknowledge for yourself how you feel about emerging back into patterns of socialness.
- Have self-compassion when trying to figure out who, when, where, and why to see people.
- We are tired from all of the decision making we have had to do for a year and fatigue will make these decisions feel even harder.
- Dip your toe in or dive off the deep end or wade in somewhere in between. This is a return and all of us need to do that differently. Have self-acceptance through this process.
- Use boundaries and limits to quite the nervous system and fear response. Say no when you need to, say yes when you want to, say you don’t know when you don’t.
- Reduce the challenge of this emergence for yourself and others by talking about the challenge and admitting this is hard work.
- Be kind to one another, we are all struggling to figure this out individually and together.7. Understanding loss is a journey, many of us lost loved ones, stability, and the life we knew. Loss does not resolve rapidly for most of us, this is going to take time.