As we continue approaching a sense of normalcy, you may be wondering how to pull off a smooth transition to post-pandemic life.
After more than a year of remote courses or jobs and limited in-person social activities, the switch back to “normal” can bring up some newfound questions that no longer seem as routine as they once did. How is my schedule going to look now that I need to drive to and from school? How am I going to juggle my in-person courses with my in-person internship? How comfortable do I feel being around a large group of friends?
To help students as they transition to a full return to campus, Victoria Gonzalez '17, health educator at the Healthy Living Program, shared some of her expert tips in a workshop hosted by the Center for Student Engagement in collaboration with the Healthy Living Program, part of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs.
Here are Gonzalez’s top tips to help everyone, and especially students, get back into the rhythm of things.
1. Connect with your support system.
During times of transition or stress it’s particularly important to lean into your network of family, friends or professionals, Gonzalez said.
“It helps us feel like we are not alone,” she explained. “Having the human connection piece is really integral to the process."
If you’re not sure who the best person to talk to is, ask yourself, “Who are my top three people?”
“Sometimes we forget the people we trust,” Gonzalez said. “Having that person or people is going to be important for processing the emotions you might be feeling now. We cannot process things fully on our own. It’s important to get other voices and perspectives to help you. We need to express what we are feeling and receive feedback.”
This is true of any situation throughout our lives, whether in times of difficulty or joy.
"We rely on human connection for a lot of our health and wellbeing," Gonzalez said. "It’s extremely important to maintain a strong support system that exists purely for that human connection and for nothing else.”
2. Be kind – and patient with yourself.
You might find yourself trying to jump right back into your pre-pandemic schedule. Never mind if your life or situation are different now.
The truth: You don’t need that pressure, Gonzalez said.
“People expect themselves to know how to adapt and transition without giving themselves grace,” Gonzalez explained. “But be patient with yourself.”
If you're out of sync because you have to wake up two hours earlier than you previously had to when taking remote classes, it’s okay. If you’re overwhelmed trying to get back into a smooth routine, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you miss a few activities because there are too many things on your to-do list, try not to stress about it. It takes time to adjust.
“The important thing is to take things day by day,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not about thinking ahead to figure out what may happen later so that once it happens you can control it and do it exactly how you planned it. That’s not how life works. Balance your expectations.”
3. When rebuilding your routine, be mindful of what works for you.
Just because you were doing something before the pandemic, doesn’t mean it was working for you.
“The pandemic allowed people to realize that some things they were doing with their lives were not things they wanted or needed,” Gonzalez said.
Use that insight to help you grow now.
For example, if you were forcing yourself to get up at the crack of dawn to exercise before going to work or school, and it was taking a toll on you, then this is the perfect time to reconsider. Are there things I shouldn’t be doing anymore? Are there new, healthier habits I should be forming?
“Don’t go back to doing things blindly just because you used to do them," Gonzalez said. "Keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t. It’s a matter of being able to rebuild your routine in a way that works for you.”
4. Prioritize your wellbeing.
As you plan your schedule, Gonzalez’s biggest tip is simple: Remember to prioritize fun. Besides your responsibilities and appointments, she said you should literally schedule a time to do things you enjoy, whether hanging out with friends, strolling through a park or reading a good book.
“Students often feel they need to do everything now,” she said. “But sometimes they are doing so much and not enjoying or experiencing any of it. They are just pushing through it. They need to allow themselves to enjoy and experience everything, even the weird and uncomfortable parts of transitioning back to normal. Everything they want to accomplish will happen eventually.”
5. Go at your own pace.
Things are different today than they were before COVID-19. You might not feel comfortable yet going on a trip or getting together with a large group of friends. Don’t force yourself to try to get back to a completely normal state. Remember, this is a “new normal” or a “next normal.” It doesn’t mean everyone will want to pick up exactly where they left off before the pandemic.
“I think there’s a lot of societal pressure to make up for the lost year,” Gonzalez said. “But that’s not the case. That’s just the societal pressure. You should be doing things at your own pace.”
Gonzalez added that if you’ve been socially distancing or keeping isolated from others and worried about COVID-19 infections, it’s normal to feel nervous about in-person activities.
If you feel that your fears go beyond general nervousness and awkwardness, a professional can help you work through it all. Students can reach out to FIU’s Counseling and Psychological Services at the team’s website or at 305-348-2277, to learn more about free consultations.
The Center for Student Engagement is housed under the Division of Academic and Career Success. The Panther Academic Success Series is an opportunity for experts to provide information that will help first-semester students better transition to FIU and current students be more successful. To learn more about upcoming events, visit the team's Panther Connect page or connect with the team on Instagram at @fiucse.