With many of us returning to school, work, sports, and face-to-face sessions, it might be the first time in many months (OK, maybe even a year plus some months) that providers, teachers, coaches, and colleagues are seeing folks head to toe, in the flesh. Providing support at this time last year looked very different, so it makes sense that some are trying to remember how we managed to tackle all our tasks pre-pandemic. March 2020 was indeed long ago, so cut yourself some slack. We were forced to create a new normal, personally and professionally. Our penciled-in “grin-and-bear-it” processes were quickly erased and written in ink. With the beginning of the new school year upon us, it is likely that the yearlong (and possibly longer) mental health needs of others might continue to surface. Things that might have gone hidden in the seclusion of working and schooling from home might emerge with the influx of social interaction and connection. For instance:
- Maybe the student who was learning “just fine” over Zoom was indeed falling behind.
- Maybe the coworker who appeared to have it all together was actually lonely, unraveling, and sinking.
- Maybe that mom or dad who successfully tried every quarantine parenting hack was actually terrified and questioning their every move.
- Maybe that athlete who told you that they could survive without competition found a secretive maladaptive coping skill to replace sports.
- Maybe the client who completed every therapeutic homework assignment and reported following their meal plan to a T was fearfully in need of a higher level of care.
So maybe — just maybe — we all need to provide some support as we transition to this particular time and moment within the world. Now that many gates have flown wide open, we’re finding it hard to remember one big thing: “How did we used to do this?”
- It’s important to acknowledge that supporters also need support. Therapists need therapy, and helpers need help. It is A-OK to not be OK and to drop a few very heavy spinning plates from time to time.
- Remember your resources! Lean on those near and dear and ask for help when needed. None of us knew what to do when quarantine started, so the same can be true during this phase of “un-quarantine.” Refer back to the COVID season hashtag of “we are in this together,” because, well, it’s true.
- Find comfort in knowing that you don’t have to have all the answers for yourself or your clients. Tap into your treatment cohort support team and strengthen your collaboration skills. Make resource lists and refer to your fellow provider pals.
Whether you’re returning to the office just a few days per week or full time, any disruption to your daily routine can be stressful and feel daunting. You’ll find yourself interacting with far more people than in the recent past, and you’ll be adjusting your schedule to accommodate for things you didn’t have to factor in last year (commuting, school drop-off lines, taxiing to and from practices). Focus on the benefits of this current shift — rebuilding social connections and curbing the loneliness many experienced during lockdown, having fewer home distractions that may have reduced your work productivity, and setting a firmer boundary between your work and home lives. Remember your own personal coping tools as we all merge back into society and write our newest new normal.