It’s been nearly a month since I’ve rejoined the workforce in Dubai. Now, it’s October and I sometimes can’t believe that I’m living in what is now referred to as “the new normal”. The difference from what life looked like five months ago to what life looks like in October 2020 is stark.

There are less people out and about, no horrendous UAE traffic (at least not that much), happening hotspots that I sigh over on Instagram while doing my hourly scrolling and we’ve had our version of nature is healing with all the visits from the local wildlife population here.

I’ve also began working once more after spending five months on furlough while freelancing on the side to survive. I’ve also been quarantining with my very desi NRI family (whom I live with) and that comes with its own set of trigger warnings (hot tip: please don’t live at home with your parents as an adult Indian woman or you will become this iconic video).

Things have been different, to put it politely and I’ve had to do a lot of processing with all the mental and emotional upheavals I’ve faced during those months. Plans for the future have been put on hold temporarily (especially travel) and I’ve done a lot of soul searching to understand what life looks like for me in these unprecedented times.

Going back to work as an immunocompromised person keeps me cognizant of the fact that even if the world is burning around me, some things never change.

Because of capitalism, I have to work in an office (despite living in a pandemic-ridden world) and well, life goes on, even though it doesn’t always feel like that. I’ve learned to be mindful of my movements (contact tracing is very crucial), mostly because I live with three family members who are also immunocompromised.

While it isn’t the best decision, I’ve always viewed my career as a means to escape all the stress that comes from being a working-class brown woman living with her very complicated family. Work has always been a way for me to exercise my freedom and I’ve missed that immensely.

Of course, my employers have created a number of precautions in place to keep us all safe and that helps me manage my paranoia of working with strangers that I don’t know what they get up to during the office afterhours.

Having a full-time job has also helped me keep the constant existential dread and fatigue I’ve felt since the start of all the chaos at bat. With new challenges to conquer and daily goals to meet, I’ve been using the five days I go into work to escape from those intrusive, depressive thoughts that tend to seep in when things got very heavy.

The pandemic has made me more paranoid (something I didn’t think was even possible) and I’ve had to learn to trust people and hope that whatever they’re doing, social distancing and all – they better be careful while doing it. I’m grateful that I live in a place where you get fines for breaking rules and being straight up reckless.

Overall, I’ve also had to turn into Captain Planner (not Planet, haha – bad joke!) and had to be mindful of what to do in each type of situation. Planning is of the essence in this case and I would strongly suggest that everyone create a schedule for their work shift. It will help alleviate your anxiety and keep your fears to the minimum.

Lastly, I think the best way you can manage all of the stress (work, chaos, COVID-19 et al) is by either investing in online therapy, following a self-care routine, keeping up with your friends even things get super heavy or just doing all that you can to keep yourself grounded.

I’ve not had access to affordable mental health resources in a while and I’m currently doing all that I can to stay safe, stay calm and most importantly, survive.

After all, we’re all still here and we’re all doing the best we can in spite of it all. Here’s to another small victory!

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Sharanya Paulraj

By Sharanya Paulraj

Editorial Fellow