“Post” Pandemic: The Challenge to Reengage in Healthy Practices

One of the more difficult influences of the pandemic is how it pushed people away from healthy coping mechanisms/practices and toward unhealthy ones. This is not because we wanted to be less healthy, but rather, our usual coping mechanisms were not available. As examples, let’s consider how some common health or support practices may have been affected:

  • People who exercised lost the ability to go to a gym, participate in a sports program, exercise class, or maybe even feel safe going outside.
  • Those who enjoyed cooking, getting produce from a farmer’s market, or simply had a healthy eating regimen in place may have been limited by supply, the ability to go to the store, or were simply home to eat more frequently than before.
  • Those who were in recovery likely no longer had their meetings to go to, their support systems/routines in place, and they couldn’t see their sponsors in person.
  • Many people who were coping well with mental and emotional health challenges now struggled to get to the doctor, the therapist, the supportive friend, or the job that kept them getting up each day.
  • In general, we were removed from each other, our routines, and our support networks which influenced us to cope in ways that were less healthy.

Now, to be clear, the world is not “over” the pandemic. But there are some safe (or, at least safer) ways to start getting back to those old, healthy routines. However, many people seem to be finding that difficult. In my role as a therapist, I am hearing that energy and motivation are low, unhealthy practices have taken their toll, and many seem discouraged about getting “back on the horse” so to speak. So, what can we do to help ourselves along?

Tips to Help You to Reengage with Healthy Practices

  • Stop trying to motivate with shame. We’ve been through a very difficult situation the past year and you coped the best way you were able. Honor that you’ve made it to this point and be kind as you begin to entertain returning to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Take baby steps. Many people who try to return to “old” healthy practices want to be at their old standard right away. If you were a runner, start by walking. If you were at a gym five days a week, try two. Small steps in the right direction are moving you in the right direction.
  • For substance use, remember, recovery is hard every time. Whatever it took you to get sober before, you’re probably going to need it again. Don’t be afraid to call on old support systems, routines, and meetings that you used before. You will probably need them again.
  • For mental and emotional health, remember you have been through trauma. A collective trauma alongside the rest of the world and, your own personal one. If you have felt crummy for quite a while, it may take a bit before you feel well, un-crummy. Take your meds if you are prescribed them. Call your therapist if you’ve got one or get one if you need one. Do “the next right thing” because it helps lead to the next right thing. Try not to think too far down the road.

Returning to post-pandemic levels of functioning is going to be a journey, just like getting through the pandemic was. Those old healthy habits are worth it but, please be patient and kind to yourself as you get there. We are all healing, one baby step at a time.

May 10, 2021. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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