5 Tips For Re-Opening

By Liz Sharkey

COVID-19 has done a lot of things to the way we live our lives. We can’t read facial expressions behind a mask, handshakes have been replaced with awkward elbow bumps. We’ve missed milestone birthdays, a planned holiday, attending a wedding and maybe the opportunity to farewell a loved one who died. Simple freedoms that we took for granted were taken away.

As we edge closer to the double vaxed goal, and we look towards reopening, how is everyone feeling?

My week has been filled with lots of online webinars from employment lawyers and health and safety experts discussing the pros, cons and legalities of only opening to double vaccinated clients. I’ve also been helping some NSW therapists complete their COVIDSafe plans. Despite my knowledge and understanding of the processes, I still have fears about returning to my own clinic room. I’m sure I’m not the only one, right?

How do we overcome these fears? How do we look forward to the ‘living with COVID’ life? How do we feel comfortable sitting in the audience of a live band with hundreds of others? How do we plan for celebrations with our nearest and dearest at Christmas?

These are some suggestions for things I’m planning on doing.

1. Know your boundaries and stick to them.

We had a family funeral (capped at 20 people) during one lockdown. I knew there was going to be a lot of hugging and a lot of tears. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hug family members – I was just not comfortable doing it in the middle of a pandemic. As they approached, I gave a bit of a wave and said, “so nice to see you but I’m not ready to hug”. This raised a few eyebrows but I was not going to put myself in a situation I wasn’t comfortable with to make them feel better. Going forward, I’m going to stick to my guns. No hugs or kisses for me for a long time to come.

2. Accept that some people just don’t want to know. Control what you can control.

Researching and fact-finding is my coping mechanism and it’s taken most of this pandemic to learn that not everyone copes that way. Ventilation and air exchange rates are simply irrelevant to some people and that’s OK. So long as they aren’t hurting me, that’s fine. If they don’t have the COVIDsafe standards that I feel are necessary, then I just don’t go there. My favorite restaurant has crappy ventilation – I get takeaway and eat it in the park. The hairdresser has her air conditioner running full pelt all day – book an early morning appointment. I can’t save everyone, but I can protect me.

3. Go slowly and go gently.

COVID has taught us what is important to us. Don’t try to be everything to everyone and remember to put yourself first. Don’t feel the need to schedule every client that asks for a booking in the first week. They have all survived this long, they can wait a bit longer. And you can return to work in a measured, sustainable and safe way. You are going to be wary, you are going to be suspicious of every sneeze, even if it is just hay fever. You are going to be working in an environment where people have been experiencing unprecedented stresses in their everyday life. It is OK to say “no” and it is also OK to pause your business if things get a bit hairy in your local area.

4. Acknowledge that every person has had a different experience with COVID and everyone will be triggered and sensitive in different ways.

Some may have home schooled 3 under 10. Others may have had to quarantine with a not so nice partner, some may have thrived and gotten fit, others may have gained weight and not be terribly comfortable in their own body. Take the time to listen to you family, your friends, your colleagues, and your clients. You don’t need to offer any advice, you just need to listen with an open mind and some empathy.

5. Be kind to yourself and kind to others.

Try to do the things you missed during lockdown. Go for a weekend away, go see your new niece, have a BBQ with your brother. Thank the person at Coles that stacks the shelves, thank the postie who delivered all those online orders and send a thankyou note to that teacher who not only had their own kids at home but also did their best to engage and teach your child as well.

Further Reading

Why You Might Feel Anxious Returning to Normal After Lockdown – And How to Cope (from The Conversation)

Helping Your Client Get Help (AMT Blog)

The Art of the Counselling Referral (AMT Blog)

About the Author

Liz Sharkey is a Remedial Massage Therapist from Melbourne, and has way too much experience on the lockdown rollercoaster. COVID led her to diversify and reskill, so as well as reopening her massage clinic when restrictions lift, she’ll be juggling a new part time job in Aged Care.

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