Here is where it gets complicated. When I work with adjustment to "new normal," I lay out the similarities between grief and adjustment; in reality, the losses resulting from the condition or injury do create grief - that's a normal reaction to something catastrophic happening. Sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear are all common emotions experienced at the point. This is where support and therapy really have their strongest benefit. I work with a concept from DBT called "radical acceptance," and we talk about how being in a state of acceptance comes and goes. I like to compare acceptance to trying to hang on to a greased pig; as soon as you think you have it, it slips away and you have to start over. However, eventually you spend more and more time in acceptance, and the intensity of the emotions dies down. It's important to note that accepting reality doesn't mean that you won't still grieve the changes. Life, for many people dealing with these conditions, has been fundamentally altered and each time they bump up against a new realization or change in function, the process may start over. Bargaining, depression, and getting stuck in the "if only's" are common in this stage as well, and like grief, we don't necessarily go through these stages in a universal manner.
With COVID, we've got a situation that is even harder in some respects, because so much remains unknown about the virus, about long-COVID, and about what will happen. "New normal" may mean wearing masks, getting annual or semi-annual vaccines, or making social distancing and remote services more common. It may mean testing for the virus on a regular basis, if your job or well-being depends on it. "New normal" also means coming to terms with the complex and painful emotions that arise from our experiences with this pandemic. We may feel less emotionally (and physically) safe with others, have more mistrust or suspiciousness, become more polarized around types of treatment or prevention, or emotionally exhausted and burnt out from dealing with this virus for so long. In my area, almost no one wears masks in public anymore, and "pandemic fatigue" is in full swing. We ALL want our "old normal" back and are struggling to find acceptance of "new normal."
If we allow it, though, "new normal" doesn't have to be bad. As a result of this pandemic, we have shown that remote work and meetings - even church services - can be a viable options. Telehealth has become more common and more easily accessed. Facing the possible life-or-death nature of this virus can create an enhanced sense of connection with those we care about, and we may be more aware of the need to take care of our minds and bodies as a result. "New normal" has led us to truly think deeper about our choices, our activities, our values, and our needs. It's allowed us to practice a form on mindfulness around appreciating our connections, our blessings, and our lives. It's allowed us to prioritize what's best for us and our families, and has enhanced our realization that live can change at any moment.
I'm not going to say that anyone has to LIKE "new normal," or even "be okay with" it. That's the one piece of radical acceptance that makes it easier to deal with - you don't have to approve of what's happened, like it, or embrace it. You just have to deal with it and get through it. And, to me, is where the power of accepting "new normal" can help us.
Please Note: The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This is not therapy, and if you wish to work in therapy, please contact your local mental health agency or your physician for a referral.
If you are in crisis or danger, please call 911 for 988 or immediate help. Please, again, realize that seeking out help really IS a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be alone in facing these things – there are people who care and who will help. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to set up an appointment.