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After over a year of quarantine and limited human interaction, things are starting to open back up and some people are getting back to what they call “normal”.  While Zoom depositions are here to stay, we are noticing our Cleveland court reporters being requested for more in-person depositions. Are you excited to get back to what you feel is normal?  Or are you like many of us who are having a little bit of anxiety about continuing to stay safe and still have fun (or get work done)?

I have joked during the past year that I have completely forgotten how to talk to people in person. Is there any world where we are not socially awkward after all this time with only a couple of people in our inner circle?  The COVID pandemic has many of us in a holding pattern of prolonged stress.  We left ‘normal’ behind for a new normal which involved working at home, not seeing people we were used to seeing, staying away from physical contact with others and spending a lot of time alone. Now we are faced with another huge shift in our life and culture.  People are going back to work at the office, they are going out to eat in crowded restaurants and seeing all of their friends.  Our brains have been trained over the past year to equate all of those things as dangerous, and rightly so.

If it helps to know that anxiety in this type of situation is normal.  We can trace the reaction to specific parts of the brain initiating our survival instinct. The good news is that there are some tips and tricks to deal with the anxiety that stems from thinking about going back to normal.

  1. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
    1. Nobody can force you to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable going to a party, or a deposition, don’t go.  If it’s a deposition or meeting, take advantage of the same technology that has become so common over the pandemic – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other tools that we can use. Be aware of yourself emotionally and psychologically. When we are self-aware in these ways, we can set good boundaries and stick with them.
  2. Communicate with others.
    1. Let people know what you are or aren’t comfortable with and why. When you have clear expectations between yourself and the other party, you lessen the chances that you will be stuck in an unexpected and uncomfortable situation.  If you are traveling somewhere for an in-person deposition, simply let us know ahead of time what you expect from our court reporter.  When you ask for what you need and are honest with the others involved, things can be negotiated clearly and easily to create an environment where everyone can enjoy themselves.
  3. Stick to your priorities.
    1. It’s most likely that we all have changed greatly since the start of the pandemic. Ask yourself – are there small routines that you discovered that make your day better?  What did I discover about my alone time vs. social time?  Don’t get swept away into a frenetic back to normal rush.  Take your time, go safely at your own pace and keep doing those things that got you through the pandemic.
  4. Ask questions.
    1. It is 100% ok to ask questions. If you have boundaries that make you comfortable, go ahead and ask about them prior to any engagements.  Will people be wearing masks?  How many people will be there?  Are all people in attendance vaccinated?  Anything that makes you comfortable is ok to ask.  It’s important that we stick to our boundaries so we don’t feel regret later.  Regret could worsen your anxiety about the next time.  It’s also a good idea not to force our opinions and comfort levels on other people.  Everyone is different, and that’s ok.  If someone invites you to an event outside your comfort zone, feel free to skip it and stay home.
  5. What about masks?
    1. The CDC has laid out some policies that say it’s ok for some vaccinated people to remove their masks. In other places, state and local laws call for contradicting guidelines.  People have varying opinions about masks, maybe a different opinion than you.  Everyone is going to have to have patience over the next phase of the pandemic.  Things could get a little awkward, confusing or tense.  If you want to wear a mask, wear one.  If you only feel comfortable outdoors, that’s ok. Respect yourself and respect others when it comes to masking up.

When we maintain control of our own situation through clear boundaries and communication, we can make re-entry into society so much easier.  We can prepare ourselves to take it as slow as we need to, keep focused on what gets us through, and remember, you don’t have to do anything social if you don’t want to.