During the pandemic, so many of us longed for human connection. Once we were able to venture out into the world again, oh the things we would do so many of us told each other. Visit family. Fearless travel. Guiltless dinners out. A hot yoga class. Hugging a friend. Watching kids on a playground without wondering about the gallon of hand-sanitizer you’d be using afterward. Maybe even looking forward to being back inside an office. 

But now that it’s actually happening, research is showing that the re-entry to the world has been more complicated for many than we might have predicted. 

In fact, medical professionals suggest we’re headed for a collective era of mixed feelings, one where joy and anxiety show up at the same time. Yes, we want to see people, feel safe and go about our daily activities. But there’s a flip side characterized by varying degrees of post-pandemic stress, irritation with yet more transitions, regret over not making more of the time at home during COVID and heightened social anxiety. A recent study of workers headed back into the office found that simply “dealing with people” outranked mental health among respondents’ concerns.

At the same time we’re experiencing a mixture of feelings and reactions to yet another shift in our world, the challenge of being visible has become a major part of so many of our professional and personal lives. Here we are in a cultural moment when simply being in a more crowded situation can easily fire up our nerves, and simultaneously both our work and social lives are still likely to be begging us to show up on camera and in video meetings, to be live on social media, constantly content sharing and continuously expanding our networks online and off so we can achieve all the things we want out of life. 

In many ways, it’s never been easier to be visible than it is today, but it’s never been more difficult to do it in a way that aligns with our mental health and overall well-being. 

Luckily, there are simple techniques anyone can use to prep their bodies and their minds for calm, confident re-entry into the new normal. None of these require a fitness studio membership, a daily workout routine or years of personal development work (although all of those are great things, too). They’re things you can access every day and almost anywhere. Choose one and try it just before you need to be visible. 

  1. Breathe differently. Devote time to breathing differently. This could be as simple as a short break and a few breaths or a session done over a longer period of time depending on your needs. Try deep, expansive breathing by sitting still and using your inhale to completely fill your lungs, as if you were pulling air into your body and filling all the space from sternum to your seat. Hold for two counts. Slowly exhale and repeat. Other techniques involve timing your inhales and exhales to a different series of counts. Try inhaling for seven counts, holding for four and exhaling for 11. Another option is choosing a set number count for your inhale, holding for half that number at the top of the breath, then exhaling at the same pace for the same number of counts. 
  2. Move intentionally. Before a visibility moment, whether social or professional or just going to the grocery store without a mask on, movement can release stress by stretching and stimulating our bodies’ fascia (a.k.a. connective tissue). Research has shown a connection between myofascial release and the improvement of depression, and many wellness professionals rely on fascial stimulation to help foster stress reduction, emotional release and injury recovery and prevention. The good news is, you can address this part of your body with simple stretches. Try a simple forward fold. Standing up with bare feet, press your feet into the ground, reach your hands up and fold forward. While folded, bring your hands to opposite elbows. Let your head and neck go. Let your upper body be heavy and hang as you breathe. Notice how you are able to deepen the fold as you stay and breathe. Another easy stretch you can try is on the floor. Send your legs out long in front of you. Press your seat down. Reach your hands up to the sky or ceiling. Leading with your chest, forward fold. Let your upper body be heavy as you feel the stretch along the length of your legs, spine and arms. 
  3. Focus your mind. If you have always resisted meditation, throw out what you know. Devote time to focusing your mind. Find a comfortable place to sit. Whether you have two minutes or 20, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your hands. Breathe evenly in and out of your nose while you intentionally move your attention and focus from finger to finger, then to your arms, elbows, shoulders and so on until you’ve done a complete tour around your body. When thoughts come up, notice them, but return your focus to your tour. When you’re done, bring your focus to a place just behind your forehead and continue breathing, using your inhales and exhales as a kind of anchor to the present moment. See what comes into your mind as you sit quietly. Notice the sounds around you, the feeling of the air on your skin, where your mind begins to wander. Bring it back to what’s happening now for the time you have.

These do-anywhere, easy, completely free, feel good techniques can be your allies in a changing world. Over time, they will feel more natural and begin to open up new possibilities in your mind, body and life.