Now that most people have been vaccinated with their second dose against Covid-19, and stores, schools and public facilities are starting to open again and remove the mask and distancing rules, us students are slowly emerging from their caves of isolation and caution into the new society. After the period of fun prohibition, we are all eager to release the bottled up energy and go back to “normal”. But what is normal? After online classes, no gatherings, closed sports gyms and a lot of Netflix and chill, it seems almost odd to plan a dinner party and to join a sports class with other people.
Another thought on everyone’s minds is: “Who am I now? What defines who I am?” Through quarantine and social restrictions, online classes and a lot of alone time, students have learned to be by themselves and get to know the person “inside”. Lao Tzu, says “Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self requires strength.”. When asking fellow students about how they feel going back to life before Covid-19, I got mixed answers, some are really excited and ready to return to classes, and social activities and some are nervous about gatherings and being around people in close proximity. I like to believe in Lao Tzu and use the strength that I have found in quarantine and tough times, to keep my sense of Self and adapt it to the new reality.
Research has found that personality traits can play a role in overall mental health and people’s ability to cope with stressful or traumatic events. So it can be helpful to figure out which category you fall into, because it helps realize that what one feels can be normal. In one study, students who were high in the personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extroversion and low on neuroticism were more likely to have better moods and less stress and were also more likely to participate in health-promoting activities. However, as the pandemic progressed, the researchers found that extroverts experienced greater decreases in their mood while introverts experienced slight increases. Aspects of the pandemic that reduced contact with other people, such as social distancing and lockdowns, were perhaps the most taxing for people who thrive in social situations. Because of this, people who have extroverted personalities may find the return to their pre-pandemic routines a relief. This is particularly true if this return to normalcy is accompanied by increased contact with friends, family, co-workers, and other people. Introverts on the other hand, tend to feel drained by social interaction. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like being around people—it just means that they need time to recharge after spending time in social settings. So because introverted students generally need time at home to decompress and take alone time, having all that new alone time, was a nice change of pace for a bit. Introverts tend to have an easier time coping with social distancing and working from home, therefore, the return to the normal patterns of daily life may be more of a challenge for people who got used to a closer circle and zoom. However, after a while of solitude, even the introverts are telling me they are excited to go back to get togethers, dinner parties and events. Thus, even though there are different levels of social agreeableness, the majority of the student body agrees on the fact that it is going to be nice to return to a life where 1.5m distance is not part of it.
And just to make it a little easier on everyone, here’s a few tips on how to ease back into things: First off, you don’t want to rush back into things too quickly, especially if you are a little hesitant to start in the first place. By being social for a few days, but also still finding time for yourself, you will find it easier to balance school, social and private life much more easily. Maybe start with seeing one friend in a setting where you could be a little more socially distanced than if you were sitting right next to each other. This will give you the sense of being outside your while also being a little cautious as things are starting to open back up. Also, go outside: After being cooped up in your house for so long, get outside. Go to a park or go for a walk. By getting outside and enjoying nature, it can really boost your mind and ultimately make you enjoy life just a little bit more. Although you may have done this to an extent while in quarantine, maybe grab a friend this time if you are fully vaccinated and walk with them while catching up on the past year. Along with getting outside, being more active is also a great way to start to enjoy life post-COVID-19. Being active doesn’t just mean exercising, it could also mean hanging out with your other fully vaccinated friends or family members, going out to eat at a restaurant or getting outside and going for a bike ride or run. By getting active again and doing more things that you love to do, it will bring you back to the time in your life where there was no COVID, and you were just living the best life you could.
Another important thing is to enjoy the little things. The past year was a time where some people may have thought that there wasn’t much good news or nothing good was happening as all they did was sit inside, watching the news of how bad COVID was that day. It’s now time to get up and start to enjoy the little things. Enjoy that you can now dine in at your favorite restaurant or that you can walk around town not having to worry about wearing a mask. By enjoying the little things, it will make you more appreciative of the world that you live in. Even if there is still some COVID-19 going around.
The last year was one for the books for sure. It was a time where people were challenged both mentally and physically as they were isolated in their homes and could not go and do activities that they once did. Now that we are entering life post COVID, it may be hard to enjoy things that you once did. Take these tips with you, so you can hopefully start enjoying life just a little bit more!
Written by Julia Schmidt