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IOWA Magazine | 04-26-2021

Ask an Expert: How Do We Reacclimate to Life After Lockdown?

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics psychologist Stacey Pawlak offers advice for a healthy return to routine following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Man looking out of a tunnel

It's been more than a year since the pandemic brought significant change to our lives. Now that vaccinations have become more widely available, many of us are returning to work and school, reuniting with friends and family, and enjoying the simple pleasures we missed.

Stacey Pawlak PHOTO COURTESY STACEY PAWLAK Stacey Pawlak

With so much loss this past year, adjusting to life after the "new normal" may take some time. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics clinical psychologist Stacey Pawlak shares some mental health tips for returning to our old routines.

  • Ease back into things. At the start of lockdown, everything felt scary and unnatural. Then we got used to it and found security. Give yourself time to acclimate back into a world that's gradually reopening.
  • Acknowledge grief. No one was spared some sort of loss this year, whether it was health, work, financial security, in-person academics, human touch, or even life. Grief can look like sadness, anxiety, or anger. Understand how grief is affecting your mood and functioning, and share your stories of loss with others, including a mental health care professional.
  • Give grace and empathy. Remember that people have different levels of faith in the efficacy of vaccines and other safety measures. Some people will jump back quickly and happily into pre-pandemic behavior, while others will struggle to feel safe again. Be kind to those who approach the post-pandemic world from a different perspective than yours.
  • Integrate positive aspects of the lockdown into post-lockdown life. Many things will be changed forever, but some of these will be positive changes. While we all have probably grown tired of Zoom meetings, it might be nice to continue some pandemic pastimes (jigsaw puzzle, anyone?). Reflect on your experience and consider incorporating more time with loved ones, a greater emphasis on self-care, and a slower pace into your post-pandemic life.
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In this video from University of Iowa Health Care, clinical psychologist Stacey Pawlak offers tips for managing mental health and staying resilient during challenging times.

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