When will life return to normal? It’s a burning question on the minds of many people curious about when they can get back into their daily routines.

The short answer, says Rachel Rodgers, an associate professor of applied psychology at Northeastern, is that we’ll probably never go back to the way things were before the pandemic struck. Instead, she said, the present circumstances will require us to continue finding new ways to adapt. It won’t be easy.

“This will most likely be stressful because it’ll be a change,” she said during a webinar hosted by the Bouvé College of Health Sciences on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. “Change is stressful, because there will be unknowns and because there will be fears around the fact that the pandemic will most likely still be with us. But it also means that there is continued opportunity for growth.”

Alisa Lincoln, a professor of sociology and health sciences, observed that efforts by public health officials to encourage people to take protective measures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance from others, have had unintended consequences.

“We’re saying now that we’ve convinced you to do this, now we want you to go back out there,” she said. “And for many that will be a traumatic event.”

As people make this transition, Lincoln said it is important for schools, universities, and healthcare organizations to keep these considerations in mind. This is a moment, she said, to draw from lessons learned in the past about ways to promote mental health and prevent mental illness.