“The world as we know it is dissolving, but behind it comes a new world, the formation of which we can at least imagine.” ~Matthias Horx
At the start of all the COVID craziness, I saw several people comment on social media about wanting to get back to “normal.” Then one woman wisely responded to their sentiment with something along the lines of, “What if normal is gone and we need to create a new one?” And that really struck me. Instead of bemoaning days that are gone for the unforeseeable future, what can we do to not just survive, but thrive during this time of change?
While much pain and heartache has accompanied COVID-19, there have been some positive aspects that have emerged while this virus has ravaged our planet. All around our globe, amidst the chaos, there is also good happening. Neighborhoods and communities are coming together, families are spending more time together, extra help for the elderly has been offered, c02 emissions are down, the earth has been rejuvenated by this reprieve, etc.
Before I continue, I feel the pressing need to address the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated quarantine has been hard. It has been unspeakably difficult for many individuals and families. It has affected every aspect of human life in our country and around the world. And even if we did not know anyone personally who contracted the virus, every single one of us will feel the aftermath of this virus. I say this not to be pessimistic, but be realistic. This has been necessary for me to accept as I have had to re-think my 2020 goals.
While these have been, and continue to be, difficult times, we have learned from them. No one knows how much longer things will be unstable and uncertain for us. Our responsibility is to continue leaning into the hard and rejoicing in the good. The following are three suggestions on how you can create your new normal:
- Embrace it. Let’s just suppose that life is never going to get back to “normal.” We cannot spend our time yearning for days past or waiting for those to come. Instead, we need to lean into the present. Yes, that means facemasks at the grocery store, less globetrotting, and family gatherings over ZOOM. It is okay. We need to accept the here and now as it is, lean into it, and make the most of it.
- See the good. Be grateful. If I start to feel frustrated that I have to wear a mask at Costco, I just remind myself how lucky I am to not be sick, to have access to food, and to be able to afford life’s necessities. Or maybe COVID has affected our lives–be it through sickness, job loss, etc–and we have been the recipient of others’ kindness. If there is one thing I have learned during this time, it is that there is still so much goodness in the world. We can see it in our communities, families and even in strangers. I have seen fundraisers, service, and kind gestures from so many people. Whatever we are going through, we can see the good in our lives. There is plenty of it!
- BE the good. Just as I said above, I have seen and even been the recipient of goodness during these times. One of the very best ways we can lean into our new norm is to contribute and make the world a better place. Maybe that means simply making the most of our time (many of us have more than we used to). We can use some of that time to benefit and bless the lives of others. We can be a little more conscientious of those around us, and be more willing to give or lend a helping hand. Whatever it is, we can all agree that COVID has humbled us and slowed us down. Let’s use this change to make the world a better place.
While the pandemic curve is flattening in parts of the country, we still do not know if we are at the front end of the wave or the beginning of a multi-wave pandemic. The virus will continue moving through the population, trying to find humans to “do what it does,” according to infectious disease epidemiologist Michael Osterholm. At some point, we will achieve 60 to 70 per cent herd immunity and life may normalize.
We cannot simply wait for that to happen. We can accept our normal by embracing where we are, seeing the good around us, and giving back where we can. Juliette Kayyem said, “Normally after natural disasters, after the earth stops moving and the floodwaters recede, we gather our wits, mourn our dead and try piecing our lives back together. This crisis is different. It’s like a cancer diagnosis. The year or years that follow the lifting of stay-at-home orders will not be true recovery, but something better understood as adaptive recovery, in which we learn to live with the virus even as we root for medical progress.” This idea of adaptive recovery is our future: living fully in the present and hoping for a brighter future. It may be hard, but I know that we can do it!
(If you feel you are in a slump that is causing you to not bounce back or adapt to your new normal like you may have been able to in the past, I encourage you to seek counseling. Many of my clients have been deeply affected emotionally by this trying time. I am here for you and am happy to help in any way I can. Contact me today!)
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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- CNN: Our New Normal, in Pictures
- Health: Living Through a Pandemic: A Guide to Surviving the New Normal
- Horx, Mattias: The Post Corona World
- National Post: After the COVID-19 crisis ends, what does our ‘new normal’ look like?
- New York Times: What Will Our New Normal Feel Like? Hints Are Beginning to Emerge
- Sky News: Coronavirus: Nine good things to come out of COVID-19 pandemic