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Returning to "Normalcy" After Over a Year of Unprecedented Events

written by Kaitlyn Stein, Ph.D.

2020 brought with it despair, uncertainty, and worry. People across the world were faced with the difficult task of distancing themselves from those they loved in order to protect others from the COVID-19 virus. On top of this global health pandemic, social and political unrest stormed the United States at the very same time. As we have learned more about this virus and more citizens have been vaccinated, we are now faced with yet another challenge. After over a year in varying levels of isolation and with increasing understanding and technology, we are able to return to in-person activities. For many, this might lead to feelings of elation after such an extended period of time in isolation. For others, this might cause a spike in anxiety surrounding social or in-person settings. If you happen to fall into the latter category, these tips and strategies might help you navigate the experience of anxiety that arises when considering returning to in-person events.


Practice Box Breathing:

  • First take a deep breath in through your nose over a count of 4 seconds, imagining a balloon filling with air. It’s important that we breathe through our diaphragm. *A good way to check to see if we are doing this is to place one hand on our stomach and another on our chest as we breath. If our hand on our stomach moves more than the one on our chest, we are breathing through our diaphragm!*
  • Next hold the breath for a count of 4 seconds
  • Then release the breath, as though you’re blowing out candles on a birthday cake, for another count of 4 seconds
  • Repeat the exercise until you notice your symptoms of anxiety decreasing 


Five Senses Grounding Exercise 

  • Start by acknowledging 5 things you can see. These could be small details you might not usually notice, like the way a flower bud looks on a plant outside, or the details in a photo on your desk. 
  • Next identify 4 things you can touch/feel around you. Examples could include the firm feeling of your office chair against your back or the cool air blowing on your face from your car’s air vents.
  • Identify 3 things you can hear. You might identify things such as the ticking of a clock in your room or the faint sounds of traffic outside your window.
  • Identify 2 things you can smell. Examples might include the faint smell of a candle burning in another room or the fragrant coffee in your mug.
  • Last, identify 1 thing that you can taste. You might reflect on something like the freshness of a peppermint in your mouth or the sour taste of a candy. If you’re struggling to find something you can taste, you can spend this time reflecting on one personal strength instead!


Utilize TAO to learn more about managing symptoms of anxiety. Here are some helpful courses to check-out!

  • Causes of Anxiety and Unhelpful Practices
  • Defining Thoughts, Assumptions, and Core Beliefs
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Deep Breathing
  • Guided Imagery