What do we do when things aren’t moving “back to normal” as quickly as we thought they would?
When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, many people experienced a “honeymoon stage” where they felt less stress from the busyness of life as things were cancelled and more margin was created. Like starting a new relationship, there can be a feeling of excitement with the newness and change.
However, once the newness of something wears off we can quickly move into a stage of “fatigue.”
Many of us are starting to feel the fatigue that has come from waiting for things to “get back to normal” with COVID-19. It can feel exhausting, confusing, and draining in our attempts to feel a sense of control when everything around us feels outside of our control.
“Normal” when used as a noun is defined as “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.” How we perceive “normal” depends on our narrative and perspective of “normal”. For example, what may feel normal to one person or group of people may feel very different to another.
In order to make sense of the things happening around us, we first have to acknowledge the fear that is behind our resistance towards change. We can do this by asking ourselves, “What is the “bad thing” that will happen if I don’t have control?” Often, it is not only about feeling a sense of control, but about what it would mean to us if we don’t get that “thing.”
In a previous blog I wrote, Acceptance & Commitment during Uncertainty, I talk about how “our natural tendency when suffering occurs is to move away from it or avoid the things that are approaching us.”
Ultimately, during times of uncertainty when our normal becomes disrupted, we have two choices: we can resist change or embrace it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches that as we move towards suffering, our anxiety level will actually decrease.
After acknowledging the fear we then must choose our focus. When I focus on things that are outside of my control I am ultimately left feeling helpless, hopeless, and powerless towards change. When I focus on the things that are in my control I feel empowered to act and change the things that are around me.
As we continue to press through times of confusion, uncertainty, and pain let’s ask ourselves these questions:
- Am I focusing on the things I have control over or the things that are outside of my control?
- How can I take a step towards changing the things that are in my control (my thoughts, feelings, actions)?
- How can I cope (exercise, therapy, calling a friend, etc) or let go of the things that are outside of my control (when it will feel “normal” again, when the pandemic will end)?
Normal is comfortable, predictable and makes sense. Feeling “normal” creates a sense of safety and control which we long to feel as humans.
What would it look like to push past the fears of things “not getting back to normal” and focus on the areas we do have control over right now?
Written by: Betty Gebhardt