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Woman sitting on a park bench reading a book

I was so grateful to receive my COVID-19 vaccinations. For me, it means more safety and maybe a new freedom. I don’t need a test if I want to go to my hairdresser or go in a clothes shop. We are allowed to hug, eat in a restaurant or drink in a bar! With friends! I think many of us missed these parts of life. These used to be seemingly normal things, but they are now extra special; however, they can feel a challenge for many people.

As the world opens up, and more aspects of life come back to us it will take a while for things to feel normal again. I had my first post-pandemic date night with my hubby and it felt weird. There were so many people out and about! For a moment I was concerned and anxious, but my husband made me feel more at ease.

Many people have been living in isolation for a year, like those living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Living inside, waiting for deliveries and going for quiet walks. It is a big challenge for many to go back to something resembling a normal life. We still have to wear masks in many places, keep distance and disinfect our hands. But there is this new freedom, though this feels different for many of us, after so long.

We have to adapt everyday activities in our lives. For example, having a face-to-face to appointment with your doctor. You have to be there on time, you have to wear a mask and you have to keep distance in order to keep everyone safe. There is less time to ask questions than before the pandemic. There is less wiggle room with time so preparing before your appointment is even more important.

Living with MS, there are a few obstacles we meet when embarking on this new normal - here are a few tips for navigating these:

- If your doctor offers telemedicine (online or phone appointments), try it! It helps to keep the distance and, if it is just for a conversation, to answer questions or discuss next steps, there’s no need to be there in person. If you are unsure if this is an option, ask. Many patients have seen the benefits of telemedicine recently.

- If you feel that you need help with your mental health, also ask. This may not MS-specific, but it is a common topic in the MS community. A coach, or a mental health specialist can support you. There are many websites and apps which can also help to address any concerns you have. Know that you are not alone with this issue and reaching out for support is the first step to feeling better.

- Support groups are a great way to gain advice and share experiences with other people living with MS. Online support groups from patient organizations are also available. These have been a great source of companionship over the course of the pandemic, as face-to-face meetings were unable to take place. If you want to meet with a self-help group or an MS support group, ask at your local medical center.

-  Ease back in to ‘normality’ gently; you don’t have to do everything in one day. Take it slow and do things step-by-step. Maybe a walk around the neighborhood as a first step of being outside or visit a local park. You also could get a coffee or a meal to go, sit on a public bench and see how you feel. From there you can set another goal!

-  You want to have a coffee outside, but don’t feel comfortable seeing so many people? Do it at a quieter time, for example, during the work hours and find a table on the edge of a terrace so there are fewer people around you.

-  Treat yourself. Your first little trip should be positive, so maybe you can go into a flower shop and buy some flowers to brighten up your home?

There are steps before we are back to a “normal life”. Personally, I think, we will not go back exactly to our lives we had before the pandemic, we will have a ‘new normal’. We will have to do our jobs, some of us will go back to work and will have to be careful there too. But I think we will be more careful. As the pandemic is not over yet, we will have to live with something in between. I see this as a chance to do things differently and maybe better than before! More conscious and maybe we can learn to appreciate the simple things in life again.

Check out more insights about life with MS and COVID-19 here.

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