Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’

Here we are, nearly four months into the pandemic. The whole thing has been a very strange experience, for all us. It’s been a shared experience across the planet, though some countries have managed it better than others. I’m learning that the ability to adapt is so important.

In a way, my life hasn’t changed much because of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic starting, I’d been isolating a lot. I lost my full-time office job in late 2018, fell into a deep depression and, for most of us 2019, I was hardly leaving the house to even go to AA meetings.

That’s why it felt so strange when the virus first hit America. In late 2018, I experienced a breakdown and experienced psychosis. And for much of 2019, I had this feeling inside that something bad was going to happen.

Source: success.com

So when COVID-19 started in March, it felt kind of freaky. I didn’t mind having to socially distance myself – I’d been doing that anyway. The hardest part was not being able to see Rachel. Another hard part was breaking the habit of reading the news and feeling like the world was ending.

Alas, the world hasn’t ended. A few weeks ago, I made a decision to stop reading the news. I check headlines once a day, but that’s it. It’s been one of the best decisions I have made for my mental health.

What I’m doing to manage

Four months isn’t a terribly long time – but I’m finding it increasingly hard to imagine what life was like before COVID-19. Before you had to wear a mask in public and worry about catching an airborne virus. Before the words “social distancing” and “quarantine” became part of our vocabularies.

Like everyone else, I’m trying my best to make it through one day at a time. I’m worried about money and work, but I’m choosing faith over fear. I’m worried about the state of the world, too, but I’m reminding myself that is very much out of my control.

Here’s what’s helping me manage:

  • A gratitude list. Every morning, I exchange a gratitude list with an old friend in recovery. Some days, I don’t feel like doing it. Other days, I’m excited about it. Either way, it’s a discipline that’s kept me attuned to the little things I have to be grateful for.
  • Video chats with Rachel. Rachel and I have been able to see each other more lately. But for the first several weeks of the pandemic, we were both heavily social distancing. It has been awesome to stay in touch through daily video chats and calls (1) because I love her and (2) because she makes me laugh.
  • This blog! I started this blog in 2016, but I didn’t really have the time or motivation to do much with it. Since May, I’ve been blogging more and it’s been great. I’m amazed by all the awesome poetry, memoir, mental health advice, etc., in the WordPress community.
  • Walking. Even before the pandemic, I’d been going for walks more, as it’s my preferred type of exercise. Now, I feel like taking daily walks is imperative for me. It gets me outside, lets me get some sun and exercise, and keeps me out of my heard.

Can we go back to the way things were?

These are just a few things that are helping. I’ve also been doing recovery meetings online, making sure I stay in touch with friends over the phone, working on DBT skills, and having weekly therapy sessions.

I guess it all sounds like a lot now that I’m writing this out. But all these things are necessary for me to stay emotionally and mentally health, especially during a challenging time like this.

Source: quotefancy.com

As the pandemic continues, a part of me feels like we’ve entered a new phase. I’m not quite sure how to put it. Almost like we’re not going to go back to the way things were before. We know too much now.

A part of me also thinks some of the things that have happened in the past four months were triggered by the pandemic. I think about Black Lives Matter and the protests, and I wonder if the movement would’ve gained as much momentum if we weren’t going through the pandemic.

Avoiding ‘future-tripping’

Black Lives Matter is not new, and neither is systemic racism and police brutality. I get the feeling that the pandemic has put all of us on edge and it’s putting a microscope on some deep societal problems.

No one’s sure what the future holds. If you read the news, you’ll get hammered with dozens of articles predicting future trends, or why this or that is definitely going to happen. They don’t know that. No one does.

In psychological terms, you could call it “catastrophic thinking” or “future-tripping.” I’m learning lately that it’s okay to plan for the future and set goals, but worrying too much about it is very unproductive.

The key word for me lately has been “adapt.” Things are changing, and they’re changing rather quickly. The more I stay open to the good things, stay connected with the good, and stay adaptable, the better off I’ll be.

(Photo by Michał Turkiewicz on Unsplash)

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