This last week has been odd. It’s been oddly freeing, while at the same time oddly stressful. With masks only required for those who cannot or will not get vaccinated, that means we can walk into malls, grocery stores, Targets, Walmarts and bookstores. As we get more comfortable with the new rules, there’s something else to rejoice about: Annual traditions have returned.

We are particularly warm and fuzzy about an Avon Lake tradition that is back in full-force: The 60-year-old Greenbox program will rev up on Monday with free in-person and take-home playground, craft and activity program projects for children ages 5 to 12. There will be 10 Greenbox locations at various parks and schools throughout Avon Lake. Children can walk up to the box and grab the craft or project inside.

The program is just one indication that we are seeing light at the end (we hope) of the coronavirus tunnel.

But there is another side benefit of a return to normal. There is a commonly felt, heightened appreciation of the little things, now, such as the Greenbox program. We have bustled through life, expecting happiness and not even thinking about everyday acts and events that bring us joy. Those joys, such as walking into public areas without fear or trusting our neighbor to do the right thing, were shattered in March 2020.

We moved from trust to anger. Anger to sullenness. Sullenness to depression … and everything in between.

Perhaps we needed the darkness to appreciate the light. We read in an essay once that there are always “dark hallways of life.” Those dark spaces can teach us to become aware of our inner thoughts and deal with the negativities. One lesson could be to try little things that can help others cope with their stresses. What are those little things? Saying thank you. Realizing others have stresses you don’t know about.

Mount Sinai recently published an article about coping with post-pandemic stress. “Why are people feeling anxious as we see signs of the pandemic easing? It makes a lot of sense that people are feeling anxious and unsettled right now. Just when we were finally adjusting to a new normal with some predictability and flow, the world is preparing to change all over again. Future uncertainty and a sense of not knowing what to expect can fuel anticipatory anxiety. There is even a diagnosis for this feeling: adjustment disorder.”

The experts at Mount Sinai have classic advice to help with this new stress: “A classic treatment approach for an anxiety diagnosis is exposure. Rather than avoiding what is feared, it is important to lean into those activities.”

So that’s what we should do. Let’s enjoy the Corn Festival in North Ridgeville, mask-free restaurants, visits to the Solstice Steps in Lakewood, county fairs, 4th of July celebrations. It’s time to appreciate the little things of these “normal” activities.

Life is good. Embrace it. We are almost out of the dark hallway.

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