Change is inevitable.
As we grow up, we encounter change on a regular basis: change in where we live, teachers in school, work, and more. Most change is anticipated and even welcome as a rite of passage. But, some change is unexpected: family plans falling apart, losing a job, or even the death of a loved one. Even when the unexpected occurs, while we may not be happy about the changes, we find a way to move on, and things eventually get back to what might be considered normal.
This is not one of those times.
The reality is that the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has caused many unwelcome changes to everything from daily routines to employment status. The disruption to everyday life is, well, unprecedented. And the reality is that things will never quite be the same again. There is nothing we can safely regard as normal. We are, at this very moment, creating a new version of what normal will really look like going forward.
This isn’t the first time that civilization has going through a major change. In most recent history, the events of 9/11 caused major changes to our economy, identification requirements, and, most notably, air travel. Along with the feelings of anxiety and vulnerability came an often unwarranted feeling of paranoia towards fellow citizens of ethnic heritage. Long gone is the ability to see loved ones off at the boarding gate in the airport, instead, we wave as they remove their shoes and pass through a myriad of screenings just to get to the concourse.
Many comparisons and references are being made to the pandemic of 1918, referred to as the Spanish flu, which took more lives than the first world war. Coming at a time when healthcare was fragmented and doctors mainly worked for themselves or through charities, it wasn’t unusual for people to not have access to healthcare. There were no diagnostic tests and little reporting of cases. None the less, it was discovered that crowded conditions increased the spread of the disease, and people were asked to quarantine and wear masks.
The pandemic of 1918 led to the stock market crash and changes in how stocks and bonds were traded. It also led to health insurance being offered by employers and a worldwide collaboration when it came to health issues. The pandemic resulted in better hygiene and the discovery of mitigation practices to curb the spread of future outbreaks.
What will our new normal look like?
We already know that COVID-19 has caused many people to feel sadness and grief over the missed experiences and opportunities due to stay-at-home orders. There is a longing for the way things were before the pandemic struck society and questions abound when it comes to “returning to normal.”
As we begin to experience the re-opening of churches, businesses, schools, and more, it’s clear that things won’t quite be the same for a very long time. The feeling of anxiety, vulnerability, and apprehension are all too familiar when leaving home. Wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer, and making efforts to protect yourself and others from transmitting the disease is a strange new practice.
Social distancing is everywhere and watching people avoid one another is like watching flipped magnets repelling each other. The urge to hug a good friend or shake the hand of a business colleague is still there but instead of acting on the long subscribed habit, there is an awkward backing up and sad combination of a bow and wave.
Yet there are signs that a new normal is forming. Working from home is being embraced, and declared a permanent option, by many companies that never considered home to be a viable work situation. Schools, businesses, and even children’s sports facilities are all putting new measures in place to enhance hygiene and provide space. It’s likely that, in the future, there won’t be a single place you’ll visit that doesn’t provide a strategically placed hand sanitizing station and touchless restroom facilities.
This is going to be an adjustment for us all, for some time in the foreseeable future but there are things you can do to help find your balance again.
Start by allowing yourself time to just take it all in. The impulse when going through a major life change is to throw yourself into some flurry of activity but that won’t allow you the time to let your mind be at peace. There is a benefit to slowing down. Think about what this change means to you. If you’re now unemployed, for example, take the time to really look into what you want to be doing as a career. If your business has slowed, think about what your goals will be going forward and make a plan to work towards achieving those goals.
Take care of yourself. You can’t be good to anyone else if you don’t take the time to nurture yourself. Eat right, take walks outside, get good rest. All of this will help your mind stay healthy and adjust to all that is going on around you.
Turn off the news and unplug from social media for a while. This will help you focus on what’s right in front of you and what’s really important like creating new memories with your spouse and children.
Talk to your friends and relatives, be open to their perspectives on what is happening. When you are able to take in and listen to different viewpoints you’ll be more at ease with the changes around you. Read what the Bible says about change and take inspiration from how others have coped.
Look at everything that is going on and find the positives. Have you spent more time with your family lately? Were you able to get back to nature or start a new hobby? Did you see your children take a more active role in their learning? Ask yourself, would this have happened if it weren’t for the current state of the world? Reflect on everything that you’ve learned about yourself and your family through all of this. “I think any time we go through struggle, it’s important to bring lessons learned into the new normal,” said Rita Zeller, GraceMed Director of Behavioral Health.
The key to embracing the new normal is your ability to look forward with hope. In times of trouble, as with the 1918 pandemic, you’ll find that ultimately there were also good things that happened as a result. And out of the good, we can find reasons to be grateful. Rita summed it up with this, “Looking toward the future with a positive outlook and embracing the new normal with gratitude moving forward will make change more acceptable.”