Transitioning into newer normal

Incidence 1: It was a regular afternoon with Grey’s anatomy on the television and me pretending to ‘study’. The husband walked into the living room and announced that he would have to go IN to work tomorrow for training purposes.
The panic that ensued from the announcement was very visible on my face. The husband assured me that he was only going into work and not war. I still tried to fight the decision with sentences like, “What do you mean by you have to go to the office?” and “Are you going to be away all day?” and so on.
I don’t know what made me more upset – The husband being exposed all day long or me having to live alone after a very long time. Separation anxiety seeped in. The idea of commuting to work felt alien to me.

Incidence 2: We do grocery shopping over the weekdays because weekends are lazier. We went to a grocery store over a weekend and panicked. The crowd made us uneasy. Somehow, we had dodged the crowd all these months with weekday shopping. Since we needed a few things, we decided to hurry up our purchase and checkout as soon as possible.

Incidence 3: The husband got his 1st dose of the vaccine last week. I accompanied him for the big moment. The clinic had a socially-distant seating arrangement. Through the measurement tape inbuilt in my eyes, I realized the distance between the chairs was less than 6 ft. Panic! As soon as the husband was called in for his shot, I chose to sit in the car with no AC in the scorching afternoon sun of Arizona. It is better to be tanned by the sun than by the virus.

Incidence 4: We decided to brunch at one of the best-rated brunch places in Chandler. The place was swarming with unmasked people. The waiting line was scattered yet too cozy for my taste. Of course, we left.

Incidence 5: We had quite a few things to shop and return last weekend. That required us to stay out of our safe space for longer. Despite being on a shopping spree, I found myself focused on checking time. The longer duration required for sprucing up our wardrobes made me uncomfortable. I might have let a few deals slip through for the first time in my life.

Do any of the incidences resonate with you? Are you considering a permanent WFH/hybrid structure for your job? Do you get anxious if you are away from your safe place/home for more than a defined time? Are you bothered by other folks wearing masks improperly or of bad quality? Do you feel anxious about being social and likable again? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Millions are struggling with the similar feelings now that the economies are opening up and people are expected to commute to workplaces.

WFH was not a thing when I worked for Sbux. At Visa, the first few weeks of WFH were tough – smaller screen, longer working hours, endless calls, and no separation between church and state. However, the pros outweighed the cons with no commute, lesser pollution, more time with family, lesser social anxiety, and freedom to label some pajamas as ‘work pajamas’. The video calls have made us more connected with family and friends. Never have I attended so many birthday parties/weddings/anniversary parties virtually! The pandemic made us realize how little we need to be happy! After moving back, the husband’s WFH has made life easier, beautiful, and more fun. Also, the time that he saves in the commute can be diverted to the kitchen!

I’ve been looking for ways and means to be more comfortable in social settings and here are a few tips I found on research –

  1. One thing at a time: If you have a date by which you need to start going into the workspace and start interacting socially, start one day/thing at a time.
    Start by socializing with a trusted group of friends over weekends or go in to work a day a week or more. Pace your interactions to your comfort level.
  2. Stay away from substance abuse: This could be a larger problem than you think. Some of us feel comfortable with a beer in hand or shots in our bodies. Do not rely on substances or alcohol to make yourself comfortable in social situations. Seek help if you face problems quitting.
  3. Maintain your schedule: Did you go out for walks/run while working from home? Did you help your kids with their homework during dinner time? Did you love the virtual workout classes? You can continue workout sessions, walks, and helping out your kids even after you start commuting to work. Try to keep your schedules as ‘new normal’ as possible to help you ease into newer normal.
  4. Try to maintain a healthy balance: This may require you to say ‘No’. Has the pandemic replaced Friday night Happy hour after work with long video calls with your family? Don’t want to change this year-long tradition? You don’t need to. You can always try and maintain a balance between your pandemic and post-pandemic lifestyle. Figure out what works for you and create a newer normal.
  5. Flex your working hours: Many employers are open to their employees working fully-remote/partial remote. Talk to your manager/team about new schedules.
  6. Seek help: Many of us have lost our loved ones to the pandemic. It has okay to feel sad and emotional. Seek professional help if you feel anxious and depressed more often than not. Mental health is as important as physical health.

Do you have ideas for transitioning into your newer normal? What activities from the new normal would you like to carry forward into the newer normal? I look forward to reading them in the comment section!

More to come.

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