Although therapist Lesley Weiss has been working at the Notre Dame Wellness Center since January, she has only recently seen some of her colleagues’ faces. Thanks to the end of the mask requirement for fully vaccinated people, a veil has literally been lifted. Even the mood is a bit lighter as she better acquaints herself with co-workers and clients.
For most people at Notre Dame, it is a matter of reacquainting themselves to campus work life and relationships. Some stayed on campus throughout the pandemic, perhaps on alternate assignments, while others worked remotely. As of Monday, Aug. 2, most are together again on campus.
If it doesn’t feel normal right away, well, that’s actually normal, Weiss said.
“One thing I keep hearing as we reacclimate to the world as we knew it pre-COVID is that it feels weird to people,” she said. “Regardless of where we fall on that scale of how we were impacted by the pandemic, as far as being shut down and isolating, all of that felt weird at the time — and reintegrating is also feeling very weird to people, because it’s new.”
Adam Dell, a clinical psychologist also at the Wellness Center, pointed to human resilience as a key to reacclimating to post-lockdown life.
Dell said, “We are an incredibly resilient problem-solving species, and sometimes I think we underestimate our ability to habituate to a new environment, or a return to a familiar environment.
“For the erudite and high-functioning and very insightful Notre Dame family, I would imagine that there might be a bit of turbulence,” he continued. “But returning to more regular interaction and a more normal pace of work is, I think, going to be managed really, really effectively by almost everyone, because they’ve proven in the past they can do it.”
One piece of advice Dell has for people finding a new normal at work is to “be the colleague you wish you had.”
“No matter where you work in this organization, turn toward one another with some compassion and curiosity, instead of just assuming everyone is doing great,” he said.
Weiss agreed, saying, “Do your best to try to get to know people’s stories and be in relationship with your colleagues. Some things to keep in mind as we continue moving forward is loving-kindness for yourself and others, compassion for yourself and others.”
Dell anticipates that because we’re coming out of a collective dark time, the semester ahead will be brighter. “Notre Dame is a premier institution of higher education. This is a highly educated, resilient, successful, driven bunch, that is driven by values that transcend mere circumstances.”