Can you feel it? It’s not only summer that’s in the air. Excitement is fresh on the breeze as we re-emerge into society after over a year of isolation. We are looking forward to seeing one another, picnics, summer vacation, and regaining a sense of normalcy. But let’s be real. We’ve been locked away for a very long time, longer than many of us have ever experienced in life. Interacting with people—whether strangers or loved ones—may be bringing up anxiety for many of us. Going back into the workplace may be causing you panic. As we begin this process of assimilation back into the world, there’s a lot of fear in the air as well. 

I noticed this feeling of fear and uncertainty in the past few weeks as I began to emerge from my home sanctuary to meet with friends safely outdoors or interact with others in public places. As we approached one another full of joy after being apart for so long, we didn’t know to hug or air kiss with masks on. Do we shake hands? Do we bump elbows? Oh, the awkwardness! Then there’s the lapse of time and what’s happened in the in-between. What can you talk about that feels authentic to you but also doesn’t alienate the other person? Because we have all been living in our respective bubbles, our perspectives of the world have changed. The fear of the unknown and the fear of what is different from us have expanded. 

We are now in the position of re-establishing our safe spaces for ourselves: what we will allow in our lives and what we could do without. Perhaps that means actually establishing boundaries for some because they were never in place to begin with. Speaking as a former people-pleaser and someone who has lived with anxiety, I did not know how to create healthy boundaries or guidelines for myself until I was pushed to my limit. But you don’t have to be exasperated to discover your boundaries. Whether you’re in the midst of a tight situation or want to be prepped just in case, here are some self-care tips to keep you calm this season.

‌‌‌‌Slow Down and Breathe

Yes, this is absolutely at the top of the list. When you are in stressful situations, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your tummy aches, and you feel like you’re losing your breath. This is because the muscles that help you breathe tense up, so you begin breathing rapidly and experience a shortness of breath. You go into fight-or-flight mode. By slowing down your breath, allowing a full inhale and exhale, you are increasing the oxygen in your brain, bringing on a calming effect. You can help calm yourself by also rubbing lavender oil on the palms of your hands and breathing in the aroma. 

‌‌‌‌Give Yourself Grace

As someone who knows all too well what it feels like to have anxiety, having grace for yourself is a big one. I can remember being in a public place when my heart would start racing and I could sense a panic attack coming on. I would look for the closest exit and take off running. Afterward, I would feel so silly for bolting in a hectic flash and even for experiencing anxiety in the first place. I was definitely my hardest critic. As you make your way back into situations that were once familiar but now feel unfamiliar, you may experience apprehension. That’s okay. You are okay. Go to your physical or mental safe place and regain your balance. You are only human. You may not always have your footing but you can find solid ground.

‌‌‌‌Eliminate the Noise

This can be the noise in your head or the noise in your surroundings. I enjoy the peace and quiet of my own home, but I realize I can’t always have that quietness when I’m out and about or in other environments. Recently, I was in the presence of screaming kids and I almost lost my cool. My sanity had been tested. The same may be true for you whether it’s a loud cafe or your phone buzzing constantly. You know you can turn off all those alerts on your phone, right? Try plugging in your earbuds and listening to soothing music to calm you wherever you are. If you’re at home, combine aromatherapy while listening to white noise with an aromatherapy diffuser. Turn down the noise and turn up the sounds of peace. This is a great chance to slip into meditation by allowing the sound of your own deep breathing to lull you into a trance. 

‌‌‌‌Respectfully Draw the Line 

Remember those healthy boundaries I mentioned earlier? Yeah, this is where those come into play. I was in a situation a few days ago when someone reminded me that I can speak up for myself and say when I’m feeling uncomfortable. I needed to be reminded that I do have that power of freedom and autonomy. When something isn’t sitting right with you or someone says something that you feel is out of pocket, you can respectfully draw the line. You speaking up for yourself isn’t out of malice, it’s out of love. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you can be a verbal or emotional punching bag. When you’ve had enough, you have the right to divert or walk away. And when you do so, you are showing as much respect for yourself as you are for the other party involved. 

Example: “Hey, this conversation isn’t making me feel too good. Let’s change the subject.” 

You are not asking to change the topic, you are strongly suggesting that you change it. There’s no room for interpretation. The message is loud and clear. 

‌‌‌‌Spend Time with Yourself 

I love my ME time. A long, hot bath with a bath bomb

cupping facial in the comfort of my home. Oooh—don’t get me started! 

Self-care is essential to maintaining calm and peace. Spending quality YOU time may also look like reading a good book or treating yourself to a healthy dinner by candlelight. If you were dating you, how would that look? You deserve to be wined and dined. You deserve to go to the florist and get fresh flowers. Although this may initially sound selfish, you also deserve to spend that time alone. Don’t invite your significant other. Nope, your BFF cannot tag along. Sorry, not sorry. This is sacred time that you get to spend with yourself. It is both an honor and a necessity. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant. Spending time with you can be as simple as carving out extra time in the morning to meditate or to journal. What’s really important is that you’re doing it for you.

‌‌‌‌Wrap it up

We are stepping into an exciting time of rekindling and reconnection. While this can feel pretty awesome, it can also feel equally exhausting. Pace yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Remember that you are safe, you are protected, and you are loved. When you live this mantra and remember that you have the tools to help keep you calm, you can confidently step back out into this world.