It’s not just COVID, though, that makes this mental health phenomenon happen.
It’s life after any big disruption.
Whether it’s going back to work after having a baby or getting back out into the world after recovering from an injury or illness, mental health tends to linger behind as you move forward again.
Think about going back to work after a long vacation.
Or about going to a big party after not being around people for several weeks.
For most people, there’s an adjustment period.
You’re not going to feel totally acclimated to lots of activity at first.
Because your body and mind haven’t experienced lots of activity.
The same rule applies to physical activity or mental problem-solving.
Stay away from something long enough, and physical prowess and mental skills can atrophy.
How to Bounce Back Into the World
So, what can you do if you’re struggling to bounce back into a mentally healthy position after a major disruption to your routine?
Try these three simple strategies.
1. Ease Back Into It
The obvious way to begin is to ease back into whatever is challenging you.
You wouldn’t jump into the deep end of a pool if you didn’t know how to swim, and you shouldn’t try to throw yourself back into the world before you’re ready.
Think of your mental health like a brand-new rubber band.
If you pull too hard right from the start, it will either break in half or snap back and zing your fingers, leaving you in a pain and quite a bit of embarrassment.
So start small.
Call one friend instead of all of them.
Pick one social gathering, instead of the four that have popped up on your calendar all of a sudden.
Building your mental health muscle back up takes time.
2. Start In Familiar Territory
Speaking of picking only one friend or only one social gathering…
It’s common to feel like you have to plunge back into life as you knew it a year ago.
Whatever you’re coming back from, it’s to your benefit to start in familiar territory.
Pick the friend who’s easiest to talk to, the one with superb listening skills and genuine empathy.
Because there’s something about the brain that tricks us into believing that we must immediately face the enemy at the gates.
There’s familiar territory and friendly skies out there–so begin with those.
3. Habits Are Your Friend
Still can’t seem to make your new life and activity levels stick?
Still feel out of place and like you’ll just never adjust to the new pace of your life?
Remember one thing:
Habits are your friend.
Do you worry about forgetting how to tie your shoes, or brush your teeth, or drive your car?
No, you don’t. Because it’s firmly ingrained in your brain.
All of those activities have become habits.
And just like you developed those habits, you can develop new ones.
Pick the one thing that you want to work on for the next four weeks.
Make it as clear as possible.
If it’s getting out into public, start with something like:
Every weekday I will walk to a place where there are people to talk to.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will make a phone call to a friendly person to build up my social skills.
Attach your new habits to something else that you already do at those times.
This is called habit stacking, and it’s a powerful tool at your disposal.
Finally, start with the bare minimum of what would count as completing the habit.
Just start–and don’t let yourself off the hook.
You may have noticed that all of these suggestions revolve around a theme.
They are all about learning and beginning anew.
Easing into it.
Beginning with what’s familiar.
All of these objectives are within your reach.
You have access to what you need,
To get back into the world, you just need to start.
And then start again.