A new year always brings about a promise of new beginnings and escaping the past. Most of us are hoping and praying that while we leave 2020 behind, we also leave COVID19 and the stress of it behind with it. It’s fun to think about next year being as normal as 2019. With no masks, no need for sanitisers, attending concerts and parties with 100+ people, and the whole world to travel! However, the hard hitting truth that many of us would not like to imagine is that 2020 might end, the virus might not.. and the anxiety and stress of it all might not leave us either!
We have accepted the new normal to be something different. We know that masks and sanitiser will have to be a part of our accessory bag for the next few (maybe many) years to come. But what we might forget to factor in is our feelings and thoughts.
We always hope for new beginnings to start with happy and hopeful events. But the new year itself comes with a lot of its own anxiety – even without COVID19 being added to the mix. We are so used to thinking of good memories of the past year – that wondering how 2020 went by can actually be pretty tough. This year has been a struggle for all of us in various ways. It might be almost too overwhelming for some of us to even recount what has happened this whole year. While some of us feel positive internal growth, mental growth or physical growth – others might still feel like life was at a standstill for the past so many months. Which might only further the anxiety.
To add to all of it, we only recently got comfortable in one place – our place, our mind and our home. We took a whole year to build spaces for ourselves – for work, for sleep, for exercise! We built mental boundaries, and took charge of our physical and mental health as well. But a sudden and completely different work culture might take time for us to grasp. We went from spending most of our time outdoors to spending 24 hours of it indoors this year, and suddenly having to rejoin offices, socialise and spend most of the day outside again can be overwhelming, tiring and extremely anxiety provoking.
The constant rapid change of this new normal might further make us feel disoriented. What consisted of work and school from home or partially working from home, might now change to resuming in person work and school in spite of the virus. Also, commuting to work, especially by public transport, and having to deal with the probability of contamination is scary to even think about! Right? Setting up a different routine than what you were used to in the past couple months to make room for travel and other things that come with work may be a new set of challenges to deal with.
Unlike what most people think, our anxiety does not have to be diagnosable or ‘very evident’ to be ‘real’! We have all had to deal with our own set of anxieties in the past months, and anxiety is not bad. It is an evolutionary process, sometimes anxiety helps us learn but sometimes it can become maladaptive which means it does not let us function normally. We need to find healthy ways to cope with our anxieties and to be able to take one step at a time.
And with new upcoming versions of the ‘new normal’ – this anxiety might manifest in new ways. Feeling tense, feeling distracted or sweaty before socialising or reaching office. Acid reflux, gas or other stomach problems might also mean that you are too stressed. Sleepless nights or sleeping too much, thinking too much about a certain thing that is troubling you or only having conversations revolving around one certain topic, can all be signs of anxiety.
– With the many different new normals and various stages on ‘unlocking’ this lockdown – it might be a good idea to be aware of your feelings and thoughts, and to sit with them whenever possible, even if that is in the midst of commuting or just a five minute break from work.
– Even though the vaccine might come soon and we might all be able to reap great benefits from that (yay!), we need to realise that COVID has changed and affected many, if not all, lives. It will always be a part of us.
– Be kind to yourself about 2020. It was a year full of hardships, stress and lots of anxiety. No society-based achievements are required for you to feel validated about doing well this year, just the fact that we all coped with high amounts of anxiety and came out of this year with new hopes and goals is a huge achievement. Be proud of yourself for that!
– Don’t set very high goals for 2021. Start with small goals like changing habits or doing one small mindfulness exercise a day, while also keeping the current scenario in mind.
– Create (physical and mental) boundaries and safekeep your existing ones. While some of us might have successfully managed to make boundaries with the people around us in the past year, it might be a good idea to keep the habit going and extend it to coworkers and the others we will be sharing spaces with in the future.