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Reverse Culture Shock and Searching for a New Normal

Updated: May 27, 2020

By Bernadette Barrett

With social restrictions easing, at least across some parts of Australia, people are looking forward to getting back to their former lives. Dinner dates, a group gym sesh, family lunches and of course, Rotaract meetings at the pub!

But with the want for things to get back to normal, there is also a quiet fear and anxiety about what the world will look like and feel like when our lives return to their former state. People have expressed fear about returning to work, study and socialising. A moderate form of agoraphobia and social anxiety has risen in people who may have felt these before and some people who never have.

The fear of going back to what was or what you’ve previously experienced is known as “Reverse Culture Shock”. For anyone that’s ever been on an overseas holiday, studied abroad, or even been to RYLA, you may be familiar with this concept. You enter into a new culture and immerse yourself in new surroundings, you go through the stages of accepting that new culture and then in a flash, it’s gone. You have to ease back into your everyday life, and you miss the experiences and feelings you had in that different environment. You might experience some feelings of guilt about not wanting to jump straight back into work or study, you may find it hard to reconnect with friends you formerly saw every week!

Here are 5 ideas of how to help with that;

1. Ease yourself into it…

This might not be something that everyone can do, especially with work and study. Your work might expect you back in the office/café etc full-time. Look at other obligations and expectations that are being set for you and where you can put some boundaries in order to give yourself a slow landing back to reality.

2. Stay connected to your safety nets

During iso, you may have found a core group of people were there for you as your daily or weekly support network. Try and remain connected to those people who knew what you were feeling and experiencing during that stressful time and share your thoughts and fears with them going into this new phase. If there are people you care about who weren’t able to do that, try and reach out to them and check in. Iso may have been a different experience for them but they might be ready to reconnect with people now!

3. Practice healthy socialisation

Socialising can often = drinking. It’s a well-known part of Australian culture, but just because pubs and bars are reopening, that doesn’t mean every social interaction needs to include getting drunk. Dinner parties, group hikes, picnics, movie nights… try and think outside the square and include non-alcoholic activities in your post-iso catch ups.

4. Accept that your new normal may look different to your former life

If you noticed during iso that there were situations you were happy weren’t happening anymore, now might be a good time to evaluate how you work that back into your life.

You may have developed a new passion; painting, cooking, writing, hiking… when setting your new schedule, how will you work those new passions into your week?

Give these feelings of discomfort space in your mind and think about what new things you will bring into your routine, and what you might leave behind.

5. Give yourself time and compassion

When you start feeling worried or guilty, think about what you would be saying to your best friend if they were feeling that way. Would you be giving them a hard time? Telling them to just get over it and get back to usual? Probably not. Give yourself that same patience and compassion that you would give someone you love. Things may get back to “normal” fast for you compared to others or it may take more time. The most important thing is to know what’s right for you and to give yourself the time your truly need. You can proudly say to yourself that you’ve lived through a freaking international pandemic! You can find your new normal too <3

P.S. If getting back to normal means you can’t get to every single Rotaract meeting/event, communicate with your club and check in with them! They’ll understand and will be there to support you.

Not everyone’s journey is the same but it’s a journey we share.

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