Coming back to ‘normal’ is going to be so awkward

[Gadget Lab intro theme music]

LG: Hey everyone. Welcome Gadget Lab. I’m Lauren Good. I am a veteran writer of Wired

MC: And I’m Michael Calor, senior editor at Wired.

LG: And Alan Henry, Wired’s service editor, joins us today from New York. Write all the helpful information about how Alan and his team can do it on our website. They cover the video game industry. And Alan is currently writing a book on productivity. Hey, Alan, thanks for joining us.

Alan Henry: Thanks for coming back to me.

LG: Also with us is the science writer of Wired, Matt Simon. Matt writes about climate change, human psychology and more Strange creatures, Which you may have seen on Netflix, because it is a video series. Hey, Matt

Matt Simon: Hello, and thanks for my stay.

LG: Okay, guys, it’s been a weird year, and you probably don’t need to say it. This epidemic has given us all an intense sense of loss and tested the limits of our personal uncertainty. But on the contrary, people are getting vaccinated. And although we are still not out of the forest, and some countries are still seeing alarming spikes in the case of covid, we can slowly begin to bring normalcy back into our lives. But it presents its own jarring shift, okay, because what is normalcy? And just because you get vaccinated doesn’t mean all the worries will go away. Other normal causes may seem difficult to return to normal or there may be a whole host of reasons why we may not be fully prepared. So I want to go to Matt first because, Matt, you wrote a story this week on behalf of YRD about the psychology of the combined concept of uncertainty. And my guess is my first question, are we going to be okay?

Microsoft: This is a great question and one we need to address on several levels. And the first will be our own experience here. We have come through a lot of trauma and this level of uncertainty is very bad for the human brain. We seek assurance. But again, we have to navigate the interpersonal relationship. Must go back to eat at restaurants. How did we forget that? Or drinking at the bar, this kind of thing. And yet choosing friendships that can go through all of this. So, you have that personal level for yourself, for yourself, for your relationship but still it has a social level that goes back to what we might call “normal”. How do we renegotiate the relationship?

LG: And we should note that many of these apply to people who are lucky enough to work from home, who have desk work at the moment. It’s not that level of concern that people who are essential workers or frontline workers, who had to communicate with others, are feeling this time. So, Matt, the psychologist you spoke to for the story you wrote, what did they say about what this stress has done to us?

Microsoft: What they are saying is that once we get this vaccine in our arms, unfortunately the pressure doesn’t seem to melt magically. We have been living with extremely high levels of stress hormones like cortisol for over a year now which are causing havoc on our body. In the short term, they are the means of survival to save us from lions and things like that. But over the years, with completely high levels of these hormones, it’s just a terrible thing, so our brains are going to take a long time to come out of this. So don’t expect to be vaccinated to feel 100 percent better. Uncertainty will certainly melt to a large extent. But again, we need to rebuild these interpersonal relationships.

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