Creating Our New Normal: Shifting From Fear to Strength during the Health Crisis

Our New Normal: Originally published in the Traverse City Record Eagle

Nicole Ball, LMSW

Life has changed

Life has changed. For everyone. In so many ways.

Many of us are now working from home. Maybe trying to balance parenting while working; and we are struggling. Many of us have lost our jobs or our businesses; and we are struggling. Many of us are lonely; and we are struggling.

Many of us are scared. Scared because we have children or parents who are at risk, or because we are at risk. Many of us are scared because we are working on the front lines in the medical field and this is not what we sign up for, but we are going to keep showing up. Many of us are essential workers and we are exposed to the public every day.

Most of us are anxious about when this will end.

Some would say that our new normal is uncertainty, struggle, survival and fear.

But I say our new normal is of strength, resilience, love and patience. We are learning, in our new normal, that we have a much deeper capacity for all these things. And guess what? Each of them is stronger than fear!

So, what can we do? How, in all the uncertainty, do we re-frame our perspective from fear to the strength and resiliency that is already there?

Re-frame and Re-focus

First, focus on what we have control over. It feels like we have very little control right now, but we can control our actions.  For example, we can keep in touch with your friends and family by checking in and making efforts to connect. We can ensure that we are taking care of our bodies by getting outside, going for walks or enjoying fresh air. We can control what we can do with our time, to be productive and clean out that closet we have been meaning to get to. Or even the choice to do nothing and just binge watching our favorite TV shows.  We can control what we do for our communities and those in need. We can control what we do for our mind by making space for meditation, prayer, quiet moments or breathwork. We can control how we nurture our creativity by doing activities we enjoy. And we can ignore the pressure that seems to be coming from every angle to be overly productive.

Next, we can limit media exposure. Yes, we should be informed, and it is important to be up to date on the latest information regarding our safety. Although spending too much to time on social media, researching or reading the news can cause increased anxiety and feed the fear.  Allow the space and time for this but do so in a way that limits the duration and frequency and offers time to decompress after.

We can also do things that keep us, those around us and our communities safe. We can practice social distancing, stay home if we are sick, wash our hands and follow other CDC recommendations. We cannot control others that are not following rules related to social distancing or sheltering at home. We cannot control how much toilet paper or bread others are buying. We cannot control others who may not be taking safety measures as seriously as we are. But we can control how we keep ourselves safe, how we react to others and how we treat one another.

There is no roadmap for how to live this new normal. But we can create the roadmap. We can re-frame our focus to what we are already doing. We are being strong, being resilient, showing love and support to those around us and our communities. This is our new normal. So, take time to see the strength in yourself, acknowledge it, show gratitude for it and then pass it on.