Magazines 2021 Jul - Aug Preparing for the post-pandemic letdown

Preparing for the post-pandemic letdown

05 August 2021 By Sarah Joy Covey and Matthew Ruttan

When we experience a letdown after a sustained crisis, we may not be able to re-activate in ways we had envisioned. Rest, gentleness, talking, and fixing our eyes on Jesus can help.

On the day many businesses were allowed to open and sell non-essential items, #Dollarama was trending on Twitter. Whatever we might make of social media trends, it seemed to symbolize the march toward normal. Well, maybe not normal, but more normal. Perhaps normal-ish.

But what if it isn’t that simple?

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one big, long crisis. Generally speaking, our bodies and minds are designed to handle crises for short periods of time. If you’re in the jungle and you see a tiger walking toward you, your mind and body go on high-alert to help you survive. Or consider a parent caring for an ill child. They are dialed-in to the situation to help in any way they can.

This pandemic has been anything but short. We have been living in a perpetual state of emergency. Many of us have been white-knuckling our way through these past sixteen months thinking, If we can just get through this storm, things will be smooth sailing on the other side.

Now that cases are down and vaccinations are up, and now that society is re-opening to a greater degree, we may be emerging from the initial storm of Covid-19, but many people don’t feel as good as they’d like. Some will be feeling burned out. Some are concerned that they can’t handle situations that used to be no-brainers. Others will feel as if they are dragging, or that it’s difficult to be around people – not because they’re worried about getting sick, but because it’s simply so exhausting.

We predict many people will experience a sort of crash after the pandemic. The chronic and sustained stress of living through an emergency has fatigued our systems. After escaping that tiger in the jungle, and after all those endorphins had run their course, a crash occurs. The parent who had been caring for the ill child was so glad to see them return to health. But now they can’t stop crying and don’t know why.

When we experience a letdown after a sustained crisis, it can be a big letdown. As a result, we may not be able to re-activate in ways we had envisioned.

Having said all this, people are different. Some will feel fine. Others won’t. Some may feel fine for a while, but only for a while. Think of a person who walks away from a car crash with no cuts or bruises, but many days later is diagnosed with whiplash.

Complicating the landscape is the fact that we haven’t had the benefit of many experiences which would normally buoy us, like seeing loved ones, worshiping with other flesh-and-blood people at church, celebrating milestones or going on trips. Plus, we continue to wrestle with the struggles which had plagued us prior to the pandemic like relationship or work stress, financial woes, pre-existing health challenges, depression or anxiety.

In light of all this, we are wise to be intentional about how we proceed. Exercise and eating well are clear wins. But here are a few additional perspectives and practices which don’t get as much play, but will help you navigate the transition to normal-ish.

Acknowledge the reality. We have collectively experienced a traumatic event and need to be proactive about our recovery, mindful of the fact that people recover differently and at their own pace.

Be gentle with yourself and with others. The people around you will most likely need some help, but so will you. You may need to readjust certain patterns or expectations in your life. Think walk-not-run, maybe even baby steps.

Rest is life-giving. God has woven this principle into the rhythm of our lives. In our fast-paced, don’t-miss-a-thing culture, we have often been disobedient about rest, so perhaps the threat of a post-pandemic crash will remind us that it’s not just a theoretical idea which is good for somebody else. Oh, and physical rest without mental rest isn’t really rest.

Talk it out. If you’re experiencing a lot of upset feelings and frustrations, you’re not alone. The Puritans were devout Christians who knew the value of mutual counsel and leaning on one another for godly support. As modern individualists we have a tendency to undermine our own goldmine of support. Let’s reclaim each other as true siblings in the household of God, and lose the stigma and hesitation about reaching out for help – including professional help.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is our Shield, Shepherd, Rock and Redeemer. In The Word of God & The Word of Man, Karl Barth recalls an experience once told to him by a monk: “One evening, being choirmaster of his monastery, he was chanting the Magnificat with his confrères, when suddenly a French shell crashed through the roof and exploded in the nave of the church. But the smoke thinned away and the Magnificat continued.”

People will be born and die – but God remains. Seasons change – but God remains. Pandemics come and go – but God remains. Cultivate the time-honoured practices which ground you in our everlasting God: worship, prayer, Scripture, Sabbath rest, acts of service.

You can face today, and you can face tomorrow, not because you have it all figured out, but because you are held in the holy and healing hand of the One who does.

Sarah Joy Covey has her master’s in counseling psychology and is the clinical director of A New Leaf, a psychotherapy practice based in Elmvale, Ont. Matthew Ruttan is the pastor at Westminster Church in Barrie, author of The Up Devotional, and host of The Pulse Podcast.