As We Slowly Reopen, What’s Next?

It’s been one year since the shelter-at-home was issued here in Ohio. With the vaccine well underway, it seems that “normal” is coming or at least it’s in our sights.

Reopening looks different depending on where you live as well as your personal perspective. When I heard that some states lifted their COVID restrictions, I thought “I’ll stay put, thanks.” At the same time, I’ve eagerly planned trips for the fall rolling the dice that they can happen.

I’m hearing similar things from friends and clients, as they’re inching their way back into their families’ homes, friends’ houses and indoor establishments.

I think the only thing we know for certain is that we’re all going to have different reactions to the process and those reactions are going to shift throughout. One minute, we’ll be excited and the next we’ll be afraid. It’s that spectrum of emotions that makes us uncomfortable.

That’s why I thought it might help to revisit the 5 stages of psychological isolation. I first discovered and wrote about them when the pandemic first started. Dr. Kimberly Norris, associate professor at University of Tasmania, has worked with various groups of people who’ve faced some type of isolation, and she adapted her learnings to the Covid-19 pandemic.

First, let’s revisit the 5 phases of isolation:

Stage 1 – Confusion and panic

Stage 2 – The ‘honeymoon’ period

Stage 3 – Resentment

Stage 4 – Reunion

Stage 5 – Reintegration

We are now (generally speaking) moving from Stage 4 into Stage 5. According to Dr. Norris, Stage 5 is the most difficult phase of the entire isolation experience. As restrictions are gradually lifted, we find ourselves in Stage 4, and we may feel equally excited and apprehensive. In Stage 5, everyone returns to work, family gatherings, bars and restaurants, etc.

Even in Stage 5, or what we’re calling “normal,” recognizing that this pandemic has forever altered parts of our lives is important. Not only is it okay to feel various emotions, but it’s also to be expected, especially for those with anxiety sensitivities or obsessive compulsive disorder.

While the pandemic is no doubt an extreme, rare situation, our process for working through the discomfort remains the same. If you live in Ohio and want to connect, reach out. If you’re out of state, check out the IOCDF or ADAA websites for providers in your area.