The “5 Step How to Guide” to Returning to Normalcy

by Elysian Magazine


A Five-Step Post-Pandemic Plan to Mental and Emotional First-Aid 

Depression, anxiety, stress not only affect you, but your family, friends, and co-workers, as well. According to certain clinical psychologists, over fifty percent of Americans exhibit signs of PTSD as they mentally deal with life after COVID. If you’re suffering from symptoms, then don’t despair. There’s a  light at the end of the tunnel.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Ask yourself, what makes you happy?
  2. What activities give you satisfaction?
  3. What means the most to you in your life?
  4. How would you compartmentalize the time and energy you spend on work, family, community, and other obligations?
  5. Given an opportunity to reset your life, how would you do it?

Get out a pad of paper and a pencil, but before you dot an “i,” don’t bite off too much: set realistic expectations.

  1. What makes you happy? Is it time with your spouse or partner, children, and grandchildren, friends, in the constant company of a beloved pet, or simply time alone? When you form your answer, remember—it’s not about what you think you should do, it’s all about what you want to do— and the peace and joy it brings to your life.
  2. What activities give you satisfaction? Cooking, gardening, being creative, reading, writing, exercising, sports—engage in things that give you pleasure, are fun, relaxing, and provide a quiet sense of accomplishment and gentle fulfillment. When you do, you’re simultaneously driving away depression.
  3. What means the most to you in your life? This question requires a  higher level of thinking. Spiritually, it may be your personal relationship with God. Socially, it may be the active part you play in your community. Politically, it may be aligning your beliefs with a party.  Professionally, it may be your work. Write down your values—and whatever you choose to do, follow what you know to be true and just,  and do it with your whole heart.
  4. How would you compartmentalize the time and energy you spend on work, family, community, and other obligations? The short question is, how should you juggle your time? One thing COVID has reinforced is that there are only 24 hours in a day—and no matter how much you try to squeeze in, that cannot change. What’s more, the more you try, the more stressful you’re making your life. The goal here is to minimalize stress and maximize life’s simple pleasures. For example, why not set the bar by adopting the “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” life in the Fifties to your family life? Every night, families always sat down together at dinner and discussed their day. They went to church together and went on family vacations. If you’re returning to the office,  that means getting home by 6 o’clock, no excuses. And that means setting and observing boundaries. The answer to your boss demanding you work late is easy. Say ‘no.’ And if he doesn’t get it, then get another job.
  5. Given an opportunity to reset your life, how would you do it?

▪ First, unchain yourself from your cellphone, computer, and other electronic shackles. Never bring your cellphone to the dinner table and don’t jump up whenever you hear a Facebook entry tone on your computer.

▪ Restrict the amount of time you watch television. Read, instead.  Shut off the TV and computer at least an hour before bedtime.  Refrain from watching violent TV shows during the workweek— the effect is too intense and screws with your subconscious thoughts and dreams.

▪ If you suffer from depression, get outside, and take in at least 20  minutes of sunlight a day. During the winter months, invest in  SAD lights. SAD stands for “seasonal affective disorder.” Light influences our moods. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)  identifies SAD as “a type of depression called Major Depressive  Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. The most difficult months for people affected by SAD are in the months of January and  February, and there are some people who experience SAD during the summer months, as well. While antidepressants prescribed by your doctor might work, isn’t it simpler to turn on a light bulb? It’s worth a try.

▪ Schedule an in-office appointment with your doctor for a full check-up if you haven’t seen him or her in over a year. Discuss your concerns with her. She may adjust or put you on medication,  refer you to a specialist, or order blood tests or scans. Whatever course she recommends, you’ll have the assurance and peace of mind that you’ve taken a big step in the right direction to getting back to normal.

A Home Cure for Anxiety

Whenever you get overanxious, try this old-fashioned remedy: breathe into a  brown paper lunch bag. When you’re undergoing stress, you hyperventilate  (even if you don’t think you are), which causes the body to expel too much carbon dioxide. The medical term is “rebreathing” and basically, it restores the balance of CO2 to normal and jumpstarts your system. Here’s what to do:  Sit down and remain comfortably seated until the episode passes. Cup a small brown paper bag over your mouth, using both hands to hold it tightly to your face. Calm down and take six to 12 easy, natural breaths. Then, take several deep breaths from your diaphragm. (This is called diaphragmatic breathing,  or belly-breathing.) You may begin to feel a little faint and if so, stop. Sit back,  continue to relax, and have a glass of water. If tea relaxes you—not coffee!  Nothing with caffeine for the moment. Also, a glass of wine or a small brandy may relax you. If you haven’t gotten over the anxiety attack in an hour, and your heart is still racing, seek medical attention.

Pay it Forward

Do these things and by all means, if you need help, don’t hesitate. Oftentimes,  the help you need can be found sitting in the backyard over a glass of wine with your husband, family member, or friend, and just talking it out. But once you feel your feet are back on the ground, pay it forward. Help others who are going through what you’ve gone through. Whether someone calls you up or comes knocking on your door, or you see a friend or even an acquaintance struggling and hesitate to talk about it, then reach out and lend a hand.  Because remember, you yourself didn’t get through it alone. There was always Someone right there, by your side. You couldn’t see Him. You couldn’t hear Him. But he was there, all the same. Not for one moment were ever alone.

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in

the sand—

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my

life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord:

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most

troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the

most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and

will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

—“Footprints in the Sand,” unattributed


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