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Wellness Toolbox Series

Daniel Lopez, M.S.W., LCSW
• May 18, 2021

This past year has provided us with a universal experience which, in turn, has produced vastly different outcomes, both socio-economic and emotional, for different people. Whatever your own experience has been — positive and/or traumatic — we all had to navigate a new set of behaviors and routine to accommodate both our own safety and the safety of those around us.  We now need to consider how to protect our emotional and mental health as well as emotional and physical safety during yet another time of transition.

There is an overarching narrative now, that we should feel elation, excitement about returning to some normalcy, about seeing our friends, colleagues, loved ones. What you are actually feeling in a situation, however, may be vastly different than what you may have imagined you would feel, or what you would like to feel.

Creating the initial systems of safety for ourselves may have been difficult at first, but now it has become routine. Once again, we must actively think about how we navigate engagement and safety, just like we did at the beginning of this pandemic, while attending to our own functional, social and emotional needs. This template may be a useful way to structure how to handle anxiety or concerns as each new situation arises.

The experience of re-socializing and re-engaging in the world is or will be anxiety inducing for many. Being mindful of our emotions when you do begin to reintegrate socially, will help to mitigate negative effects of trauma and anxiety responses. 

Pay attention to a few key thoughts and emotions:

  • How do I feel in accepting the invitation to do or experience something again?
  • How do I feel in the time leading up to this event?
  • How do I feel when you enter that space, whether it be a social gathering or a walk with a friend?
  • How is this social interaction making me feel right now?
  • The way I am feeling, Is it the same or different in comparison to before the pandemic?
In each new situation, it can be helpful to consider: “What am I afraid of or worried about? How can I create the feeling of safety?”


You’ve received an invitation to a small going away party for a friend, which would normally make you feel excitement, but is now making you feel a bit of anxiety. 

Ask yourself:

“What am I feeling nervous about? Does this feel unsafe? How can I recreate safety?

Recreating safety might look like:

  • Having multiple masks and hand sanitizer with you
  • Having a call to discuss the nature of an event or invitation before accepting or declining
  • Reminding yourself that you can leave the minute you feel uncomfortable

And, remember to be kind to yourself. We have internalized a great amount of external messaging regarding what is safe and unsafe to do, and we now operate on unconscious cues regarding how we can avoid danger. Your anxiety is there for a reason, and it is important to attend to it and to be able to express it in a way that’s helpful to you — and to ensure that you are emotionally ok and physically safe. Consider how you can create this safety by utilizing tools, coping strategies or altering behaviors as you see appropriate.

Daniel Lopez, M.S.W., LCSW

Associate Director, Trauma

Mr. Lopez specializes in trauma and has been certified in ARC (Attachment, Self-Regulation & Competency) since 2013. Including ARC, which is an evidence-based framework for therapy using a trauma-informed perspective, Mr. Lopez has extensive training and experience in trauma-informed therapy practice.