Now everyone is trying to manage conflicting levels of threat in ways that used to be specific to these populations, she said. Clues that used to be neutral or positive, like being with other people (I love my friends and family!), Are now associated with threats (my friends and family could infect me with Covid!). And we face the challenge of turning off that alarm. "What is a true alarm and what is a false alarm has become more confusing for all of us," said Dr. Kaysen.
So how do we learn how to be together again?
Give yourself permission to set small, achievable goals. And accept that other people have different reactions than you – the friend or family member who, for example, wants to eat at a restaurant when you don't, or who is willing to get on a plane and go on vacation.
Accept that certain activities can feel difficult for a while. Drive an hour to a meeting. Fly to a conference with red eyes. For example, attend a family reunion or four pandemic-postponed weddings in a month.
All of these can lead you to ask your family, boss, or even yourself, “Is it really worth the time?” And “Now that I know things can be different, do I want to go back to my old life? "
Recovering doesn't mean going back to what you were before, said Dr. Kaysen and used Kintsugi, the Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with gold, as an analogy to get out of difficult times and become more aware of the change and stronger than before. "It's like you create a new normal that is functional and beautiful – and different."
Dr. Keltner agreed that we may need to “re-educate” – “how do we hug again?” Your timing might be wrong for a hug, a joke, or even a compliment. "How do you look someone in the eye so it isn't intrusive? How do you compliment someone? You might not have done it in a year."
Instead of being overwhelmed by everything at once – for example, going to a party where you have to be prepared to greet acquaintances, eat with others and try to make small talk at the same time – why not take it step by step? This moment can be an opportunity.