Think back to the early days of summer 2021. You’d already posted your #PfizerGang selfies and were feeling…wait, is that optimism? Could it be? After more than a year of pandemic living, it was just starting to feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And in some ways, there was. Post-vaccines (thanks, science!), many of us were feeling, for the first time in a long time, like we could partake in some of our favorite pre-COVID activities without the crushing anxiety that had accompanied pretty much any outing since early March 2020. We were able to sit inside for dinner when it was unbearably hot al fresco; we finally used that quickly expiring museum membership that was part of our failed 2020 New Year’s Resolution to be more cultured; we—gasp—flew on an actual airplane to visit friends across the country.
But recently, we’ve been experiencing a familiar sense of anxiety creeping into our daily lives. We’re feeling, to coin a phrase, déjàvirus.
What is déjàvirus, you ask? Well, much like its strange but generally non-malicious cousin, déjà vu, déjàvirus is the feeling that you’ve experienced this kind of COVID-19-related anxiety before.
And honestly, it makes sense. Suddenly, we’re back to wearing masks everywhere. We’re back to working from home in our sweats as office openings get delayed. And, as schools across the country return to in-person classes—many for the first time in a year and a half—parents are experiencing much of the same stress they felt at this time last year. (Some, especially, are feeling the weight of knowing that their children are too young to get vaccinated, but are still susceptible to a virus that’s very much a threat.)
But just because we’re not out of the woods doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Rather than succumbing to déjàvirus and retreating to your mid-pandemic ways, try these five strategies for remaining calm, cool, collected and informed.
5 Ways to Not Let Déjàvirus Ruin Your Life
1. Be Patient with Yourself
This advice is crucial pretty much any time, but especially right now. Jason Woodrum, ACSW, a therapist at New Method Wellness, reminds us that what we perceive as “normal” isn’t going to come back in a single day. “This will be a gradual process filled with daily reintegration of parts of our lives,” he says. If you’re feeling unsure, start with baby steps and take time to celebrate each and every one. “For the time being, it’s going to be the little things that define our reintegration,” Woodrum notes.
2. Continue Listening to the Experts
Knowledge, as they say, is power. If you’ve been listening to experts since COVID began, don’t stop now. Yes, there will be days when news of spiking hospitalization rates will make you want to scream into a pillow, but staying on top of the CDC’s guidelines is a way to take the power away from the virus and put it into your own hands. No, you can’t make other people do the right thing, but knowing that you’re doing what’s best for yourself and your family—as recommended by the people whose literal life’s work has been eradicating infectious diseases and viruses—should provide you at least a little peace of mind.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Your Boundaries Clear to Others
Though some folks have gotten pretty lax about their mask-wearing and social distancing habits, Woodrum tells us that doesn’t mean we should feel uncomfortable holding onto these precautionary measures for longer. “Whatever your boundaries are, discuss them with those around you regularly. People will respect and understand your continued need for safety.” Though you might feel awkward or silly or like you’re overreacting, you know your body and mind best, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do what feels right for you.
4. Remember How Far You’ve Come
“What a year for resilience,” Woodrum says. “As a group and individually, we have shown ourselves to be adaptive in ways we never thought we would have to be over the course of 2020.” He recommends taking the time to look back on how far we’ve come, and the way we’ve made it through it during this challenging time. We found toilet paper on largely empty shelves. We figured out unique ways to support our favorite restaurants. We learned how to make sure we’re washing our hands for 20 seconds or longer. He notes that we’ve shown a tremendous ability to roll with the punches and get through some really challenging times. Reminding ourselves of this, he tells us, “creates a foundation of assurance that no matter what comes next, we’ll succeed and achieve throughout that as well.”
5. Encourage Those Around You to Get Vaccinated
In case you missed it (though you probably didn’t miss it), the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older on August 23. On top of that, a new CDC study shows that the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be highly effective at reducing the risk of severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death. Though vaccines won’t stop you from getting COVID, they likely will stop you from experiencing any serious symptoms (and, potentially, from taking up space in hospitals that’s needed for other, non-COVID reasons). If you know someone in your life is unvaccinated, have a frank conversation with them about why that is. Without being judgmental, provide them with facts about the efficacy of the vaccine and share how painless—literally—it is to get vaccinated. Let’s work together on this, OK?