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For most of us, masks, social distancing, and living remotely have become a way of life. However, due to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, we are seeing a gradual shift to something more similar to what life used to look like before the pandemic and more schools, businesses and other places are transitioning to a life outside of remote interaction. Illinois is nearing phase five, eliminating the mandate to practice social distancing, and the CDC has lifted most mask recommendations for those who have been vaccinated. This is all wonderful news and certainly provides a light at the end of this tunnel that lasted too long, however for some of us it can feel more complicated to think about what this all entails. Whether your life has been significantly remote or not, it can be jarring for all of us to experience this change. Here are some guidelines to potentially make this adjustment more palatable.

Do What Works & Know Your Limits

It is important to take self-inventory and recognize how this change makes you feel. Perhaps you feel ready and excited, or perhaps there’s a faint but present feeling of worry. Being aware of how you are feeling will allow you to know how comfortable you are with this change and where you will draw your own lines, effectively navigating this time in a way that works for you. Maybe you are not ready to take the mask off, or maybe it has been off and you are excited to do more. Regardless, it is helpful to know where you stand and what works for you so that you can set your boundaries.

Make a Plan

Once you know where your boundaries lie, you can set a plan for how you will start to engage with a changing society. This can help challenge yourself to interact more while not crossing your own limits until you are ready. Perhaps you want to gradually increase your engagement in your social life or gradually reduce time spent at home. Having some idea of how your routines may change can help avoid feeling overwhelmed or stuck.

Be Present – Avoid Overthinking

There comes a point where reflecting, planning and even re-engaging can become harmful rather than helpful. It is important to give yourself some grace to relax and be present instead of keeping your thoughts in the future. Even if you have not formulated a plan, it is still important to remind yourself of the importance of staying present to avoid overthinking, which can lead to unnecessary anxiety. Take a moment each day to slow down – breathe slowly, move slowly, think slowly. There is a time to think and move quickly, but it is always helpful to have a time of intentional calm. It can be the difference between having a good, productive and rewarding day or having a troublesome day feeling frozen in thoughts.

Practice Safety & Understanding

While you may have more interaction with the outside world, it is important (though undesirable) to remember that this is still a pandemic. It is important to continue to follow the recommended safety practices and recognize that everyone’s experience is not equal to your own. It is important to respect and recognize that others may continue to practice a different extent of safety precautions for various reason, and it is likely unhelpful to challenge or disregard their actions. The whole reason to do what works and make a plan for yourself is to navigate how you will engage in this adjustment and how you can best feel safe doing so, but this does not include dictating the same for those who feel differently.

Rejoice in the Positive Feelings

Positive thinking can not only facilitate a more positive attitude but also help increase motivation and wellness. At the same time that it can feel jarring to gradual readjust to a life with less precaution, this time should also feel good and even rewarding. We have made it through this time and it is now appropriate to think about how we move forward. Yes, some of these changes may feel weird or even guilt-inducing. However, if we do not take the time to also and equally endorse the good feelings associated with this change, it will be hard to accommodate to this change. Taking the win and allowing positive thoughts is super rewarding, powerful and healthy.

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