Accepting the ‘New Normal’ and letting go of your old life is easy in theory but so difficult in practise. Right? Any adjustment to change can be challenging. Whether it’s planned or unplanned, gradual or sudden – it seems to throw us. Where some people thrive on change and being out of their comfort zone gives them a feeling of exhilaration, others find any change daunting and anxiety provoking. However you respond to change, this transition is inevitable. It’s human nature and it can elicit an ‘out of control’ response. The difference is how we choose to deal with it – whether we accept it or resist it.
Personally, the emergence into this ‘new covid normal’ for me is eerily similar to my adjustment from my pre-stroke life to my new disabled realm. I longed to be the ‘old Em’ for years. To me, life as a full time Occupational Therapist & avid runner was normal. Entering my new realm as a stroke survivor was so different. I couldn’t do what I once could do prior to my stroke. What’s more, those around me also perceived the ‘old Em’ as the normal. We all clung onto me returning to the active, healthy & ‘normal’ Em.
Over time, it became evident that ‘she’ was not returning. In fact, in clinging onto the past Em, none of us could move forward. Attempting to rebuild our old lives just caused immense frustration.
I write in my book,
“…The truth was I was totally unprepared for the emotional impact my stroke would have on my life. Although I still had my marbles, the endless physical disabilities that emerged, and the frustration of not being able to communicate meant that these marbles only smashed around uselessly inside my damaged head. I clung onto the idea of returning to my old life. But as time went by, the realisation sunk in that my past identity had vanished when I’d had my stroke. Everything I once was good at was now gone. I’m useless! “
Right now, we are all very eager to return to ‘how things were’ and regain some normalcy. Whilst this is exciting I think it’s also a really scary time for many. We have hope that things will become more normal but also have glimpses of what that now looks like. Wearing masks, refraining from hugging a loved one or avoiding big groups is certainly not what we’re used to. It is not normal’. I struggled adapting to my new ‘normal’ when life was so different. I clung to the ‘old Em’, I resisted doing things that were different to how I’d done them. But learnt that this only led to frustration, more fear, and hesitation about embarking on my new path.
“…I realised the only way out was to rebuild my confidence and somehow find a new identity. I had a choice. I could sit and sulk or do what I was there to do – get rehabilitated. I had to choose to be proactive in my recovery rather than reactive. I had to change my attitude.
Perhaps, one day we will be mask-free and the 1.5 metre distance restriction will not apply. But until then, I guess we all have a choice on how we let these parameters impact us. We can resist them or accept them.
Let’s try and accept what we can’t change, but change what we can!
ADJUSTING TO THE NEW ‘NORMAL’
These are some of the things that perhaps are worth considering when we all attempt to adjust to our new ‘normal’.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Developing a good routine adds some normalcy & familiarity to your life. Knowing what’s ahead in your day, gives you and others a HUGE sense or reassurance – this way, contending with the unexpected things that pop up in your life are easier to withstand.
As time has gone on as the end of isolation is near we can easily drop our routines, justifying our actions by telling ourselves, “in 2 weeks I can get back to the real gym’ or when the kids go back to school I can finally have my ‘me’ time!”. However, not incorporating & addressing our needs into a routine ‘now’ only deprives us of the structure we crave as humans, especially when approaching so much ‘unknown’. Surely, if we’re relying on finally achieving some ‘normalcy’ when we exit isolation, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
GRIEVE THE “OLD” NORMAL
Despite being encouraged to ‘embrace the new normal’, grieving the “old” normal is vital. This pandemic has completely rocked our lives, physically, emotionally & financially. It’d be naïve of us to think that we all wouldn’t be feeling a sense of loss. As with any change, feelings of denial, anger, depression and frustration will likely be felt. It’s so important that we can acknowledge these challenges that we’re feeling. I’ve learnt that internalising them, in fact only makes them build!
MAKE TIME TO REFLECT –
Make sure you have time-out still in your day to figure out how your feeling about life ‘now’. When we can return to school or the office or aspects of our old lives, it’s easy to fill up this ‘space’. To make sense of things, and process what we want to sustain, what we have learnt and what things need to change, we need to make time to reflect. A yoga class, a walk or a bath. Make time for ‘you’.
AVOID HIBERNATION & REMAIN CONNECTED
After months of isolation, avoiding socialising in the ‘virtual’ ’distanced’ way is tempting. It actually feels easier to hibernate until things go back to how they were. But in isolating ourselves, we know there are ways that we can connect -Remembering that social distancing does not mean social disconnecting. In the new normal we can still connect with people – just perhaps in a different way.
DO THINGS YOU ENJOY
Adjusting to the New Normal can be challenging at times, so it’s super important to keep doing things that you enjoy. Finding things that put a smile on your face, anchor you to the present moment and add purpose to your day. I think many of us have learnt that engaging in these things gives us all purpose, distraction & is strangely quite therapeutic.
BE KIND & PROACTIVE
Remember to be kind to ourselves. Allow yourself the space and time to grieve, to celebrate, and to feel every emotion in between, during this challenging time. We are all unique, and this pandemic is impacting each and every one of us so differently. Being kind to yourself is so important to model to others around you. We all are inclined to become more irritable when facing any change. We may react to this unknown realm, feel so out of control and then easily take these feelings of uncertainty out on those around us. But when we are able to recognise these emotions and are able to be kind to ourselves amid it, we can process it so much better. Choose to be kind – be proactive rather than reactive!
Considering these things will help the transition into the new ‘normal’. Whilst I’m sure these are already part of your lives, reinforcing the importance of continuing to address these in our ongoing adjustment.