Transitioning Back to "Normal" After COVID

I’m not going to lie--I’m excited for a return to "normal" (or a new normal anyway) now that the outlook of the pandemic is looking up. I’m looking forward to attending concerts, sporting events, trying new restaurants, and traveling more. In fact, I recently made my first trip to a movie theater in about 16 months!

Truth is, I want to get out there and pack as much as I can into this summer. I want to get out of the house and stay out. I want to go a million miles a minute and make up for over a year of quarantine with little social interaction.

As fun as all of this sounds, I have to continually check myself. I still have ankylosing spondylitis and my AS does not care about the economy opening back up. My disease doesn’t simply turn off because I want to do all the things that I haven’t been able to do for what seems like an eternity.

Pace yourself this year

While the future is not guaranteed, I find it especially important to plan for tomorrow with this disease. In my experience, one overstimulating or overly exhausting day may lead to days or weeks of flare-ups and recovery.

That’s why I intend to pace myself this year. To slow down and enter back into the social scene gradually and safely.

Part of pacing myself might mean politely declining invitations for social events, just as I occasionally did pre-pandemic when my body was having a bad day. There may be added pressure to commit to dinner dates or other social gatherings because it’s been so long since the last time it was safe to gather at a restaurant or bar with friends or family. But that added urgency does not suddenly make my AS symptoms fall by the wayside.

In addition to social pressures, I’ve noticed my workload picking up at my job. I work in higher education which has, like so many other sectors of the economy, experienced a significant decline in metrics and revenue during the pandemic. Now that the economy is opening back up, we’re seeing a gradual increase in enrollment and expect that to continue through the rest of the year. Some days I could work 12 hours straight and still not get all of my work done. But again, I try hard to check myself. I already left one career path because of workload and stress, I do not need to take on more than my body can handle in this job as well.

Proceed with caution

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add in a note in here about caution. Just because restaurants and movie theaters and concert venues are opening back up, and just because more and more people are getting vaccinated, does not mean that we’re out of the woods just yet. The virus is still out there and dangerous, especially to those of us who are immunocompromised.

As we’re all easing back into pre-pandemic behaviors, please remember to proceed with caution. Don’t take any unnecessary risks in the name of returning to normal, especially if you haven’t received the COVID vaccine.

Remain resilient

While it’s unlikely that another pandemic will strike again soon, and I hope that statement holds true for so many reasons. But one thing that I’ve learned over the past year and a half is that I can be resilient in the face of stressors and uncertainty. This pandemic was difficult, but I don’t need to place extra stress on my chronically ill body by trying to make up for "lost time."

So instead of pushing myself past my limits, I will use this summer to gain a better appreciation for what I can do and for the post-pandemic world to come.

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