Millions of Americans have been staying home for weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, but now many states are lifting restrictions. Some stores, restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses are getting ready to reopen, and the thought of reopening can be exciting.
Going back into the real world after so much time at home can also be daunting. As challenging as staying at home may be, many of us settled into a new normal at home, with different (or no) schedules, appointments, or commutes. A little prep work can help prevent going out into the world from being overwhelming, and these are some things to think about.
1. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
While following stay-at-home orders, you may have used PPE, such as mask and gloves, only for shopping, pumping gas, and other essential outings. You may not have used any PPE if you got grocery delivery. Once you start going out again, PPE will be part of your life. A mask, or makeshift mask such as a bandanna tied around your mouth and nose, along with some gloves, will be necessary when you will be around people. Be sure to learn protocols for taking masks off safely and washing them properly for reuse.
2. Hand washing
For decades, experts have been recommending hand washing to protect against infections, and that recommendation is one thing that has not changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether or not hand sanitizer becomes available on store shelves again, soap and water can do the trick and are actually preferable to sanitizer. Wash your hands frequently, scrub the fronts and backs and in between the fingers, and sing "Happy Birthday" while you do it.
Do you remember traffic jams and rush hour? Once cars and trucks come back onto the roads, the rules will again change. Pedestrians will no longer be able to step out into streets assuming they are empty, and bicyclists will again be second-class citizens on the road. From drivers' perspectives, speeding will need to stop and patience will need to return to be able to handle rush hour again.
4. New rules
Some restaurants, stores, hair salons, and gyms may be reopening in various places, but the experience will be a little different. Face masks are required in many places, and limited numbers of people may be allowed to enter at once in order to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people. Get excited about getting table service again, but be prepared for bottles of hand sanitizer instead of salt and pepper shakers.
Even if you have adjusted well and are ready to hit the ground running, others may not. Many people may be reeling from the effects of COVID-19, such as feeling isolated or worrying about jobs or health. Other people may be afraid to venture out or may need help with groceries or other errands. Offering a listening ear and help when possible is not only the right thing to do, but it can also help make you feel better, too.
6. Communicate openly with family
Everyone in your household and close family needs to be on the same page regarding contact. If you live separately from older individuals or individuals with underlying conditions who are at higher risk for more serious cases of COVID-19, will you still see them? If you have children, when will they return to school and, if applicable, will babysitters return? Which social engagements are allowed in your family, and with which precautions?
7. Work and school
Going back to work and school may be a relief, but there may be a few changes. Desks may be rearranged, masks may be necessary, and socializing may from a distance. At work, customers or visitors at one time may be limited, for example. At school, there may be staggered start times, new protocols for drop-offs and pick-ups, and days of attending school from home.
The threat of coronavirus continues, but as people get back to doing more activities, they may naturally be less cautious. To protect yourself, it is perfectly okay to remind them gently about social distancing. Feel free to ask them to step back a little so they are 6 feet from you, or to wait for them to finish using the elevator before you step into it.
9. Have compassion for yourself
As badly as you may want to go back to your life, it is not always that easy jumping back in. The transition back to working face-to-face with colleagues, not constantly knowing what your children are doing, seeing friends again, and having meals on the go instead of cooking at home can take some adjustment. Rather than being hard on yourself, give yourself time to get used to the busy lifestyle after so much time at home.
10. Retain a few lessons
What good things came out of your time at home? Did you find that family meals together are not only possible, but pleasant? Is working from home once a week a good way to improve productivity and happiness? What about that pre-dinner walk you started taking first just to get out of the house, but now because it makes you feel good?
11. Keep up healthy habits
While at home, the focus on preventing COVID-19 may have been a motivating factor for healthy eating and exercising because it boosts the immune system. Now, keeping up those habits not only maintains a stronger immune system, but helps lower stress levels and improve long-term health. Lark is there for you to help with healthy choices in eating, physical activity, sleep, and stress management so you can be at your best.
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.