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Dear therapist, how will I feel when the pandemic is over?

A Sea to Sky therapist walks us through what to expect and what has been lost — or gained — through this COVID-19 period.
walking and talking therapy
The Chief sat down with Sea to Sky therapist Adrian Juric, founder of Vancouver Walk and Talk Therapy.
In casual conversation, many locals express being beyond excited for the pandemic to be over and for life to get back to normal. 

And certainly, there is reason to believe most of us will be more than happy to hit a concert, get on a plane and see long-lost friends and family. 

But dig a little deeper and many of us are a bit anxious about what life will look like post-COVID. 

With all this in mind, The Chief sat down with Sea to Sky therapist Adrian Juric, founder of Vancouver Walk and Talk Therapy, to discuss how we can expect to feel after the pandemic, loneliness and why this period, though uncomfortable, may have been a beneficial reckoning with ourselves. 

What follows is an edited version of that conversation. 

 Q: What are you hearing from clients about how they are doing at this stage in the pandemic? 

A: There is a sense of trepidation around what the future is going to look like and what the new normal will be. My interpretation is that in some ways, it has been productive in that it has exposed what hasn’t been working in their relationships and at work. This time has been a kind of incubatory time, free of the usual distractions. As a result, questions have arisen such as: “What am I doing? Who am I, really? and, What is it that I can offer the world?”

These questions are often held at bay in the business of ordinary life.. But the pandemic has cleared away a lot of those distractions and may force us to sit in what, I think, is a very productive way with these really powerful existential questions. These are questions that make a life in how we respond.

Now, that is cold comfort for those suffering. It is almost as if the ground is moving beneath their feet. There’s a sense of real unease, like those who have been in an earthquake say, you don’t know if the ground is going to keep moving beneath your feet. 

 Q: What should we expect once we are all fully vaccinated and re-starting our lives?

A: Post pandemic, the thing I would ask people is to allow themselves to welcome whatever feelings come up. 

There will be a range of feelings. There will be confusion, elation, and, a second later, there might be dread and uncertainty about what may be to come. There will be a rotating carousel of emotions for a lot of people. It is just fine to have all those feelings. It is always OK, but especially at this time. 

 Q: While troubling, the pandemic is a collective problem that we are all dealing with together. Once this is over, won’t an issue be that pre-pandemic problems will resurface like a beach ball held underwater all this time? 

A: Yes, but when this is over, we are also going to have a different perspective. Sometimes we will go, “Why was I struggling over that? Why was I obsessed over that?”

This post-COVID world context has put our formerly First World problems into sharp relief. They have exposed them for the relative trivia that they are. 

However, other things will surface, and we will be bolder, I think. We will be stronger and have a clearer sense of what is important and what is not. Relationships are the number one thing people are talking about. 

They are saying, “This pandemic has clarified for me who my real friends are and who are not; who I love and who I don’t; who will be there for me, and who never was.” 

It is kind of a ground-clearing exercise that is a useful storm to come into our lives because it exposes what was strong and what was just appearances. 

What I see with my clients right now is that they are sifting and sorting in the aftermath. 

You know how you see people in a post-tornado or post-hurricane, staggering around through the rubble of their former house? What they are doing, metaphorically, is they are picking through the wreckage, looking for really key mementos, like a family photo. There are a few things they want to salvage, but the rest they are content to leave. 

That is a visual of what we are doing now. 

 Q: How do we know what to leave behind? 

A: I truly believe that your body is the touchstone of truth — whether something or someone is good. Our bodies often tell us. Our heads might tell us this job would be strategically a wise choice, or this person would be good to make friends with because of who she knows, but your body can tell you otherwise.

When trying to figure out what to invest yourself in, pay attention to your gut. If your body had a voice, what would it say about this person you have just met or about this appointment you have made? 

Is your body dreading it? We overrule our bodies, but that is the legacy, often, of our parents and our teachers, who taught us to sever the connection between what our body knew was right or wrong.

That happens to a lot of us. 

 Q: More than previously, during the pandemic there has been a public discussion — or acknowledgment — of loneliness. Can you reflect on that for us? 

A resource worth reading that was published just as the pandemic was getting underway is “Living Between Worlds,” by James Hollis. He talks about how we are terrified of spending any real time with ourselves. Part of the reason is there are some heavy, existential questions that hound us that we discussed earlier: “Who am I really? What do I really want? What do I really love? And what am I supposed to do with my life?”

They are terrifying because no one can help you with them. They are yours alone. 

Far from being ashamed of feeling lonely, it should be celebrated when you notice it in yourself.

You are actually poised to have a real conversation with yourself. 

The degree to which you feel comfortable in your own company and your presence is precisely the degree to which you’re actually real in the world. Your ability to spend time with yourself is a courageous thing.

 Q: Tell me about the very Squamish way you do your therapy, which is out on the trails walking, correct? 

A: I know personally that my clearest thoughts come after a good is hard walk. We need to move.

We are designed by evolution to move.

There’s research out of Stanford University that proves that people spending time in nature reduces anxiety and rumination and increases memory and cognition.

That is why I do what I do. 

 Find out more about this type of therapy on his website.

**Please note, we have corrected the title of the recommended book since this story was first published.