Anxious feelings are understandable when returning to everyday life after the pandemic. There will be a process of readjustment. There are bound to be thoughts or worries about the changes that are happening in your life. It is natural for people to want to stay in their comfort zone. Entering the unknown is what causes our anxious feelings. However, there are several benefits to returning to everyday life, so it is crucial to fight those thoughts.
Many states are relaxing the pandemic restrictions allowing us to “freely move about the cabin.” We’ve been physically away from people for over a year, communicating primarily through the computer. Interacting with people after so long of a time can be anxiety producing. We’re either unsure of the safety of our health or uncertain about how to interact with people again. “So, as more people get vaccinated, and we accelerate toward a new normal, is it any wonder that some people are feeling hesitant to let go of precautions?” Source: NYTimes
Nearly half of Americans say they feel uneasy thinking about in-person interaction once the pandemic ends, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Stress in America report. (USAToday) These anxious feelings happen most often when we feel out of control in a situation, or when the change is unknown. As humans, we prefer to think that we are in control of our life.
We spent many months adjusting to a “new way of life,” so it will take some time to again adapt to another new way of life, even if that life is what it used to be. Your lifestyle may return to what it used to be, but you aren’t who you used to be. You have been affected by living through a pandemic. Your mindset and outlook on life are different from what they used to be.
What is normal? Typically, normal is referred to anything we sense as a known or an expectation of a way life is to be. In other words, normal can be fluid, changing as we change. So, why be anxious about going back to normal? Let’s create a new normal!
In June 2020, I wrote an article, “The New Normal – 7 Valuable Lesson Opportunities To Learn Now” suggesting that we take the positive changes the pandemic caused in us, keeping them as we return to “normal.” My suggestion of almost a year ago remains valid. An LA Times article reports that some 46% said they do not feel comfortable going back to living life like before the pandemic. (LATimes)
How to cope with the anxious feeling:
1. Take it slow – No one is forcing anyone to immediately jump back into society. As you feel comfortable, start slow. Join a group of close friends, branching out from there.
2. Don’t wait for the anxiety to go away – A strong reason for your fear is the unknown. Until you venture into society, it will remain unknown. Therefore your anxious thoughts will remain. It’s only by venturing out of your comfort zone that you’ll reduce the anxiety.
3. Let go of resentments – We can’t control other people. There is no reason to hold resentment about other’s actions or the government’s actions. Control what you can control, your emotions, and your responses to what is happening. If you’re blaming others, let it go. Don’t let someone else dictate your happiness.
4. Change your perspective – Look at the world and those around you in a positive manner. We get what we look for. In other words, if all I see is negatively, then all I’ll experience is that negativity. So look to the positive, and you’ll get positive experiences in return.
5. Teach others – As you’re learning to cope and feel less anxious, teach others how you are doing it so that they too can move forward. Not only will you help another person, but altruism is proven to make the giver feel positive and more at peace.
If you’re feeling anxious, know that you aren’t alone. You can do things to reduce your anxiety, but the key is not to go through this alone. Reach out to others for support and camaraderie. And if you need a professional, find one of those, too.
Grief is a typical human experience, but the COVID-19 pandemic has upended many of the ways we usually manage the loss. Here are my tips on coping healthily with your grief.
Grief is one of those emotions that many of us think of only during the loss of a loved one. And while this is the grief, many of us experience grief, and the grieving process, can happen whenever we have a loss.
During COVID-19, we have experienced many deaths, and those events elicit feelings of grief, but almost everyone has experienced loss due to the coronavirus. We have lost employment, lost freedom of movement lost ability to meet with family and friends as we used to, and lost a sense of control over our lives. All of these are losses that can lead us to feel grief.
The Mayo Clinic reports that “In addition to feeling grief over the loss of life caused by COVID-19, you’re likely grieving the loss of your normal routine.” Check out my article on this topic written a couple of months ago by clicking here.
“Not only are people now grappling with the loss of normalcy, but also with anticipatory grief, or the feeling that greater loss is yet to come.” (Very Well Mind) Some of the grief we feel comes from feeling that we are not in control and worry about future changes. Focusing on the unknown of the future causes stress and anxiety, increasing the grief felt due to our losses.
Grief affects everyone differently, and for some, grief can be expressed through depression and anger. If you or a loved one appears to be depressed or is becoming “short-fused” or angry, the root issue may be stress created by underlying grief of a loss of normalcy.
If you or someone you know is experiencing grief, try these steps for coping with your grief. They work for me.
Using mindfulness, pay attention to your emotions. Keeping your thoughts and feelings in the present moment, experiencing your current feelings, will help guide you to understand those feelings you wish to change. Then you can take control of changing those feelings.
Stay connected to people. Even though many of us are social distancing and not gathering in groups, don’t isolate. Meetings with individuals while physically distancing allows you to stay in touch, as does technology.
Practice self-care. Do actions that are positive and healthy for you. Eat well, pick up hobbies, rest, and be kind to yourself.
Feeling well takes time. Changes in your emotional outlook take time, so have patience with yourself. You will feel better in hindsight, but while going through the emotion, it feels like forever. Remind yourself to let the process take its course.
Validate your feelings. Feelings are simply our response to a situation. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. So, how you’re feeling is valid. If you wish to change your feelings, fine, work on that, but don’t judge your feelings or use phrases like “I shouldn’t feel this way.”
Grief from COVID-19 is not your fault. Your losses are yours, as are your feelings. You have control over your response to what has happened to you. You are empowered to cope with your grief, healthily.
The “new normal” is a phrase that has entered our everyday speech, along with phrases such as “social distancing,” “physical distancing,” or “PPE.” Due to COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have been changed. The questions are, how much longer will our lives be changed, and will our lives ever be what they were before?
Therefore, the idea of a “new normal” worries some people and causes many to feel anxious. Friends of mine, and some clients of mine, lament that life may never be how it was before the pandemic. Yes, that may be true. But I wonder if a return to normal is what’s in our best interest.
When we focus on the new normal, we compare our present moment with the past of a few months ago. As I reflect on the past, I recall many positive aspects of our society. Yet, I also remember many negative aspects of our society. Might it be possible that this time of “difference” within our society can also be a time to create a “new normal”? Might this present moment be an opportunity to move into the future of possibilities?
I propose a shift in perspective so that we can take the positive elements of this present time and continue them when the pandemic is no longer an issue. Instead of a return to normal, let’s proactively work toward a positive new normal, which will, over time, simply be known as “normal.”
Here are my suggestions for valuable lesson opportunities we can learn from this new normal:
Re-define the phrase new normal
Normal is what we’re used to; for months, that routine has been challenged. Longing for normal means of longing for the past. What if we look to a “new normal” filled with possibilities?
Let go of victim thinking
These events were not targeted to you individually, even if you are affected by them. A victim is a person devoid of choices. You do have options today. Some aspects of life are beyond your control, while other aspects are in your control. Learn the difference and focus on those areas you can change.
Re-connection with family
The quarantine, for better or worse, forced families together in their dwellings. No family dynamic is perfect, but has your family grown closer? Have you eaten more dinners together or started game nights? Lack of commuting to work and fewer activities and meetings provide families more time together. How can this togetherness become our new normal?
Find your peace
Anger has a way of taking over our life, spilling onto people or events we aren’t even angry about. Our society is sharing in this everyday new normal, enabling us to better understand each other in our shared experience. Take the energy of your anger and shift it to a passion of service toward society.
I grew up before the commercial use of the internet, and before the existence of social media. I recall spending much of my time with my friends in person. During quarantine, we can’t physically spend time with friends, but we can use technology for good. Spend time with your friends via the internet, where you can see each and share in a group conversation and group activities. If this interaction with your friends is new to you, how can you maintain this new normal into the future?
Be kind to others and yourself
As society tries to cope, I find that most people seem a bit nicer and more patient. We’re in this together. Many messages we hear lately are reminders to take care of ourselves during the quarantine. This is essential daily, regardless of what is happening. In the new normal, how will you continue, every day, taking care of yourself and being kind to others?
What aspects of this new normal would you like to keep moving into the future? What would you like to change or stay the same? Start making a list now for you and your loved ones. Also, share with us here or on social media so we can learn from each other.
I challenge us to shift our perspective to no longer look at this period from a negative attitude but to look at it from a positive outlook. We can then create a future filled with positive experiences. Don’t let these past few months pass us by without us walking away with healthy learning. Let’s proactively shape the future we want to live in.
Yes, the future worries me. Interestingly, a year ago, I wrote and published this article on worrying about the future. Little did I know that a year later, this topic would be most appropriate.
As we continue to struggle with the societal effects of COVID-19, the future worries me. It’s, seemingly, more unsure than ever before in our personal history. Will we return to “normal,” or will the past “normal” never be experienced again?
If we stay focused on the future, then yes, we should be worried about the future. How do we cope with this worry? Read on as I offer my four tips for dealing with the future.
None of us knows the future. Therefore, by its nature, the future is unknown. Since it’s an unknown, it tends to be scary, because I can’t prepare myself for it. Therefore, the future worries me. As humans, most of us desire to be in control of our daily lives, although, no matter how much we strive for control, much of life is beyond our control. The future is one of those areas outside of our control.
When we feel that we can’t control an aspect of our lives, then we feel “out of control.” Feeling out of control is scary itself as we worry about where we will end up if we aren’t in control. So, the future is not only an unknown, but it’s also out of our control. Actually, the future isn’t in anybody’s control!
So yes, when the future worries me, it should! THAT’S NORMAL!
When I work with clients who share their worries about the future, obsessing over it, stressing over it, I help them understand that their future feelings are to be expected. If we are to dwell in the future, meaning, keeping our thoughts focused on the future, then we will be worried and anxious. The statement that the future worries me is deeply felt. I let my clients know that although what they’re feeling is a normal response to their thoughts, if they would instead not feel worried and anxious, then they need to do only one thing – change their thoughts!
Keeping my thoughts in the future causes me to worry and have anxiety. Does it not make sense that changing my thoughts and removing my thoughts from the future would cause me less worry and stress? The standard definition of insanity is doing the same action over and over, yet expecting a different result. Therefore, the definition of sanity is doing a different action and getting a different result.
Here are my four tips for coping when the future worries me:
- Refocus your thoughts: Throughout the day, whenever you feel worried or anxious, pause a moment to notice where your thoughts are focused. Are your thoughts focused on the past or the future? If so, this is the source of your worry. The future worries me when I dwell in the future. Consciously move your thoughts back to the present moment by consciously focusing on what you are now seeing, feeling, experiencing, etc. We have control over the present moment, so keeping our thoughts focused on the present reduces our worry and anxiety.
- Change your perspective: Perspective is how you see and interpret the world around you. Our interpretation is derived after being “filtered” through how you feel about yourself. If you’re negative about yourself, you’re most likely negatively focused on the world around you, and vice versa. Changing our perspective on an issue allows us to view a different way of thinking, which may help us find a solution different than those we’ve tried before. A different solution leads to a different outcome, and therefore sanity.
- Worst case scenario: When we dwell in the future, we tend to focus on what can go wrong (TIP: a change in perspective would be changing your focus from what can go wrong to what can go right. Why must it be negative? Since I don’t know my future, why focus my thoughts on only one option, the negative option? Since I don’t see the future, isn’t it possible that it could be positive?). Since you’re already focused on what can go wrong, consciously ask yourself, “What’s the worst-case scenario?”. When you objectively and logically review what you fear as the worst case may, in fact, not even be that bad!
A few months ago, I was working with a client on this very topic. I used the example of what if a sinkhole developed right now, and this whole building went down. What’s the worst case? The client stated that the worst thing that could happen is that he dies. I asked why that’s the worst that could happen to him? Of course, he mentioned family, kids, friends, etc., but that’s not the worst case for him; it’s the worst case for them! If he dies, he’s dead, there are no more worries or concerns for him. So the worst case might be that he survives and is scared. Yes, being scared is normal. What do you do next? You try to climb out; you either succeed at it or rescuers finally get you out. Regardless, the odds of being trapped in the hole, alive, with no one coming to save us, would be rare. And if you say, “but what about the zombie apocalypse”? Well, in that scenario, I would rather be hidden in the hole. My point being, worrying about a future sinkhole will cause anxiety. Still, understanding that even the worst-case scenario isn’t that bad allows us to reduce our worry about an impending sinkhole.
- Plan for the future with a reasonable expectation: Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not saying that to live in the present means, we forego any future planning. Not at all! First, concerning the scenario for which you are planning, determine those areas of the situation for which you do and don’t have control over. Those areas you have no control over you need to ignore. But, those areas you do have control over, you need to make plans. Understand that the decisions you make today will impact your future plans. And, situations and events out of your control will change your future plans. This is why I say that we need to have reasonable expectations. We can make the best plans in the world, but keep in the back of your mind that they may not come true. And that’s alright. Why? The opportunities which may open up for you instead may be better than what you wanted. In the future, other opportunities may exist which don’t exist today, and there’s no way of knowing that until we live in the future’s present moment. So, make your goals, plan for your future, but keep an open mind to what that future may actually reveal.
Let this thought comfort you: today was yesterday’s future for which you worried. Was it as bad as you thought? Tomorrow is today’s future. What decisions and plans can you make today to help you in the future of tomorrow?