After months of following social distancing measures, taking a break from some of our favourite outings, pausing our businesses, and going without seeing our loved ones, Ontario is executing a framework for reopening our province.
Our first of three phases have been implemented, which means some retail stores with a separate street-front entrance are allowing people to shop inside, with appropriate protocols and procedures in place to ensure physical distancing is being followed. In addition, some counselling services are operational face-to-face, as well as some outdoor recreational activities such as marinas and golf.
Your response to these actions of moving forward may fall into a range of mixed but very valid emotions; hopeful, excited, fearful, anxious, nervous, joyful. Many of us made changes to our daily lives to flatten the curve and to protect our health and the health of others, so it might feel strange to return to these activities during a pandemic.
We just want to say that we are with you in our feelings of uncertainty. The fact is, the world as we know it will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic. We will continue to adjust to these changes as we did when this all began. We will get through it. With the coming changes, we anticipate a shift in social norms, and we want to help you navigate this transition with ease.
Sooner or later, we will be able to socially distance in groups of 10 rather than the current 5.
Like us, you may have a scene in your head of what it is going to look like once we reunite with family friends for the first time in weeks! It may act as your motivation, or it can stir up anxious thoughts. Will you have enough to talk about? Will it be awkward? Focus on all the things you missed about human connection.
Take a moment to enjoy the presence and company of someone “new”. Staying at home was not a productivity contest, don’t feel that you need to justify how you spent your time. You did whatever you needed to do to cope. However, be aware of your coping strategies were harmful (excessive substance use, lack of physical movement, poor diet) and perhaps use the opportunity of being with a loved one to disclose you are seeking healthier activities and need to change your habits.
On the other hand, you might be so overwhelmingly excited to resume physical social interaction that you are trying to make up for lost time. Everyone is on a different journey, so try to refrain from coming across as overbearing, despite the excitement, to give your family and friends space as they navigate their own process during this time.
Getting fresh air and connecting with nature is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health.
For people living in apartments and condos, the effects of not being able to walk in a conservation area or engage in sports have hit harder. But, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel that allows us to share our space with the outdoors once again! However, that does not come without caution. Being immersed in an abundance of space void of confined areas, heavy traffic, and physical objects to be touched is no doubt more low-risk than alternative activities, but social distancing measures are still in effect.
Be respectful of others – don’t walk too close to them and maintain the recommended physical distancing
Practice proper hand-washing/sanitizing – especially in shared facilities
There is a possibility daycares and child care centres are next in line to re-open, which is a big relief for some and scary for others. It is your decision whether you are ready to send your child back. With summer camps and schools closed for the remainder of the academic year, this summer you might have your kids home more now than ever. It is important to engage in self-care, take breaks, and rely on others when you can.
Everyone’s individual journey is challenging enough, but it become especially difficult if you are trying to pull your family through it too. Parenting is a unique task, especially now, but there are resources to help you navigate it. Try this article: Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home
Retailers are beginning to develop procedures that they have never tried before.
They have to look at safety precautions from a new lens. They care about the health of their customers, their employees, and themselves, and do not want to make any moves that would jeopardize that. Therefore, they might make some mistakes as they figure out their new process. If there is an issue, try taking it up with the staff before criticizing their business online or jumping to conclusions; this is all new for them too. It can be expected that there will be some Plexiglass in place as a shield between cashiers and workers, arrows on the floor directing foot traffic, a limited number of people allowed in the store at once, and application of hand sanitizer required for entry. If you do not agree with these actions, keep in mind that there is a very real risk of contracting a dangerous virus and it is better to be safe than sorry. On the other hand, do not compromise your own safety if a place of business is not following the rules and making you feel uncomfortable. Several stores are continuing to offer online shopping and curb-side pick-up.
Whether you have been working at your regular location, from home, or not being able to work, the return is going to be different for all of us.
You might be “busy as usual” but it likely will not be “business as usual” and no one should be expected to operate in such fashion. We have been out of a routine long enough for our new daily structures to have become habitual. Therefore, it is going to take some time to gauge our new normal. If you are a frontline worker, the pressure might be greater than ever to perform, but you cannot be at your best if you are burning out. Step back as needed. If you are returning to work, you may have realized that you can get your work done just as well from home versus the office, so maybe there is an option to implement work from home days in your schedule. Expect new policies and procedures to be put in place. Lean on your coworkers for support. Take your time familiarizing yourself with the new process and getting to know your work again. Perhaps you can use your reflections during the pandemic to lead your work in a new direction. Your well-being comes first, not the work itself.
Remember: change is not inherently a bad thing. We are choosing to believe that values came about as a result of this experience. We are not discounting the hard times, but we have learned to live in the present, enjoy simpler activities, and spend quality time with our immediate families. We are reminded to practice good health hygiene, and of what is most important to us. We hope you can find some silver linings, be patient for what comes, and thank you for doing your part for our community.