While the phrase “adjusting to the new normal” has been repeated endlessly since March of 2020, it’s easier said than done. How do you adjust to constantly changing circumstances where normal means uncertainty?
This has been an unprecedented disaster for most of us that has a profound impact on our daily lives. If we were in a natural disaster, or even surviving a terrorist attack, there is visible damage, and the time it takes to endure the event is limited. We get through it, and then we deal with the aftermath.
COVID-19 has everyone on edge indefinitely, which means radical shifts in work, school, and home life that not even first responders have experience managing. Even with things seemingly coming back to normal suddenly, there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty.
Once past the initial surge of adrenalin required to “fight or flee”, we find ourselves depleted of energy, unable to concentrate, hypervigilant, and fearful. Many are diagnosed with anxiety disorder, PTSD, or depression. We can’t look forward, because we don’t know when or how this will end. We can only look back at how life was, and realize that it’s not safe or predictable anymore.
We are raised to think, understand, and then solve the problem.
One of the most difficult aspects of ambiguous loss, is that there isn’t a problem to solve, or something to explain because we can’t problem-solve or explain what is so new and still unfolding. The best way through is a concept called radical acceptance.
If we turn to research for help, data on disaster and trauma focuses primarily on what happens during a recovery period. We have to find our way through, and develop new ways of coping while we are in this stage. At Beachwood, we help people build access to all of their ability and agency. Here are a few ways to build resilience and develop new coping strategies.
Accept that life is different right now.
Life is different, and we don’t know the answers. Resisting this causes discomfort, and focuses our energy on what we don’t know and don’t understand. Acceptance creates an opening for figuring out how to get through the current struggles. What we resist, persists – so acceptance makes all the difference. It shifts our perspective so that we can find the best outcome.
Experiment with new ways of thinking.
Pay attention to the words you use to describe any given situation. We can be overwhelmed, and find our way through! This is Shifting Perspective. Negative thought pops into our consciousness more frequently than positive thoughts at time because your mind is going into survival mode. Thinking of the fortunes you do have or the solutions you can work towards can help shift your perspective.
Develop self compassion.
Give yourself permission to be patient and find your way one step at a time. This process is new, and everyone is navigating uncharted territory. We can only know what we know now, and do the best we can as we discover how best to move through.
Recognize that you are grieving.
Realize that you are grieving a normal that is no longer present in our lives. That means that we are aware of what we have lost and we miss it. The stages of grief involve shock, denial, anger, sadness, and eventually acceptance. It’s important to notice the feelings that we often don’t want to feel, and the resistance to facing what is. Once we turn toward those feelings and allow ourselves to feel them, we can begin to move toward acceptance.
Notice what you enjoy, and do more of it.
Letting ourselves find joy or happiness can be difficult when we are in survival mode.
Both and thinking helps us realize that we can both be surviving, and enjoy moments in our lives. Do your best to notice what helps you feel better. Whether it’s walking in the woods with a friend, or listening to music, or reading a good book; notice what helps calm you, and do more of it.
Put energy into maintaining and strengthening relationships that are important to you.
A sense of connection prevents us from developing trauma in traumatic situations. It is critical for each of us to feel connected as we are designed to live together, in community. When we push through something big alone, it is stored in the brain as trauma. It triggers younger parts of us to show up, and resilience is not possible. Determine who you want to stay connected to. Another person with whom you feel safe with, can empathize and share compassion, and with whom you can reciprocate support and helpfulness.
Take advantage of the opportunities and create ways to have human connection safely.
Being outside after we have been cooped up, can feel rejuvenating. Nature feels constant and reassuring. A walk in a familiar location, where the change is observable and safe can help.
It also provides a setting where we can be together safely; one on one, at safe distances.
Beachwood Integrative Equine Therapy works through trauma, anxiety, and depression in a natural and safe environment. Using the powerful healing of horses, our therapists help identify where you are storing these feelings and work towards coping and healing. Learn more about what we do here.