Now, everybody is trying to navigate contradictory threat levels in ways that was specific to those populations, she said. Cues that was neutral or positive, like being around other people (I really like my friends and loved ones !) Are now related to threat (my friends and family might irritate me with Covid!) . And we’re facing the challenge of how to turn off that alarm. Whats a true alarm and whats a false alarm has gotten more confusing for all of us, Dr. Kaysen said.

So how can we relearn the way to be together?

Give yourself permission to set small achievable goals. And accept that other people will get different responses than you — the friend or relative who wishes to eat in the restaurant when you don’t, for example, or who is prepared to get on a plane and take a vacation.

Accept that certain activities might feel tough for awhile. Driving an hour into a meeting. Flying a red-eye to a conference. Attending a family reunion, say, or four pandemic-postponed weddings in one month.

All this can prompt you to ask, of your family or your boss or yourself: “Is it really worth the time? ” and “Now that I know things can be different, do I wish to return to my previous life? ”

Recovering doesn’t mean that you go back to how you were before, Dr. Kaysen said, using kintsugi, the Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery with gold, as an analogy for coming out of hard times with awareness of the shift, and stronger than before. “It’s that you create a new normal, one that ’s functional and gorgeous — and different. ”

Dr. Keltner agreed that we might need to “re-educate ourselves” — “like, how do we hug again? ” Your timing may be off to get a hug, or a joke or even a compliment. “How do you look someone in the eye so that it’s not intrusive? How do you compliment someone? You might not have done it for a year. ”

Instead of being overwhelmed by everything at once — for instance, going to a party where you must adjust to greeting acquaintances, eating with others and trying to make small talk — all at the exact same time — why not take things step by step? This moment may be an opportunity.