This current year has been a challenging time world-wide, mainly due to coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is still being fought in many countries and areas of the world. Many parts of the world have gotten used to (and perhaps even accepted) a temporary New Normal.
Change is challenging, and I would guess that many of you reading this blogpost have had major change in your life this year. Replacing the ‘status quo’ with new behaviour, new restrictions, perhaps increased concern about health, and the difficulties of doing things that we used to do (e.g. international travel, attending sporting events, hugging and shaking hands) can be unnerving.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”– Marcus Aurelius
In this blogpost I want to concentrate on the positives of this situation. Why not use the changes to say to ourselves – “This is a chance to examine what I’ve been doing, and see if it still fits my purpose – see if I still want to do it.” It’s a chance to let go of things that may be holding us back.
In this blogpost I’ll list some ideas of how we can all embrace – and get the best from – planning for the future while living with the New Normal. (The following headings are based on an article by clinical psychologist Emilita Cornain) (1) :-
1. Allow yourself to grieve for the ‘Old Normal’
We have not been living the ‘Old Normal’ for many months, and may never return to it. Alternatively, we may have been anticipating a return to the ‘Old Normal’ throughout the coronavirus restrictions, and feel disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
It’s OK to grieve for how we used to live.
We have all suffered various degrees of disruption during this year, and unfortunately some areas of the world (and Australia) are continuing to face major disruption to daily life. You may even find yourself going through the five stages of grief (2) for how life used to be.
During this time, and during other times in my life when I have felt very discouraged, one of the sayings that has supported me is:-
“This too shall pass” – Attributed to several sourcesA saying which supports us through difficult times, and also ‘grounds’ us when things are going very well.
Change is constant, and we can be sure that the current situation, whatever it is, will not last forever.
However, there is little point in dwelling in the past. By all means, we can examine the past and learn from it, but once we have done this, we can start embracing our current New Normal.
We can even plan for our ‘New New Normal’ which is how we will live when the pandemic has passed, looking towards the future.
2. Create a new plan
When our normal routine is disrupted, we can use that opportunity to change things for the better. As stated above, we can discard the routines and habits that do not suit us anymore. Perhaps they are things that we enjoyed doing a year ago, and we had fallen into a ‘rut’ or habit and simply kept on doing them. Perhaps they are an unwanted habit such as smoking, or too much drinking.
NO MORE !
Research by Wood, Tam and Witt (2005)(3) has shown that when we change our routines, it is easier to make positive changes to other areas of our lives.
Recently, I have seen many clients who wish to quit smoking, stop nail biting, decrease social drinking, and manage their weight better. These clients are using the disruption to their old routines to enable them to create new habits, as their old habits were linked to activities that they may not do any longer.
A great way to plan what you would like to do is to imagine how you want your life to be. Maybe you would like to be slim, and healthy.
- What would that mean to you? Would ‘healthy’ mean that you could walk for an hour without getting out of breath? Would ‘slim’ mean that you can wear that pair of classic pants from April 2019?
- What would you need to do to reach that goal? Perhaps you would need to join a gym or exercise at home. Perhaps you would need to change what you are eating?
- Which of those activities can be started now?
Much like a road trip, we need a clear picture of where we are going, and we can then plan milestones along the way, and plan how to achieve those milestones.
It is also important that we are making the most of new opportunities, e.g. in Australia the Federal Government is offering heavily subsidised undergraduate and postgraduate certificate courses for people whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19. There are also subsidies for those who cannot work at present, and I understand that this is also happening in other countries.
McDonald and Bushey (5) developed the CHOICES Map. This uses the metaphor of a journey, and it consists of seven conversations designed to help explore the question “Where do I go from here?” CHOICES is an acronym for Culture, Hurdles, Options, Inspiration, Choice of Action, Experimentation and Self-Fulfillment. It requires asking and answering specific questions. These include but are not limited to:
- Looking ahead, how might my lifestyle be different after the pandemic?
- What expectations for my future do I need to let go of?
- What options are available for me in the short term and what is my vision for the long term?
- Who are the people I want to be a significant part of my life going forward?
- How am I going to foster those relationships?
- Does my plan for the future allow me to express something important to me?
- How can I add ‘experiments’ (trying out new ideas) to my life now or in the longer term?
- What practices do I follow in my daily life to foster self-fulfillment?
If you would like some inspiration for what you wish to achieve, the report by Deutsche Bank (8) could also give some ideas of what life may be like after COVID-19.
3. Write it down / create a journal
We can record our experience of living through this time of coronavirus pandemic. We can include what we do, what we are thinking, what we are planning, and anything else relevant. It will be an interesting record that we (and other people) can look back on once COVID-19 is past.
It is worth recording in our journals all the things that we feel grateful for in this situation. Several friends of mine have admitted that they feel grateful for more time to themselves, and for avoiding the daily commute to work during lockdown. This is part of positive psychology. (7)
Of course, many people have suffered during the pandemic – with loss of jobs, and even illness and loss of life. It is worth also including reflection in our journals, of how we found living through this period, what it may have taught us (e.g. of community spirit, and kindness, and also the importance of looking after our health).
We can also use the journal to plan the changes we are making as a result of examining our ‘old lives’. maybe we would like to start new habits, ditch old habits, stop some activities and start others. Use the journal to plan as well!
4. Stay connected in new ways
In Perth (Australia) where I live, we are still social distancing. Its important to remember that we can still connect. We can still meet people for a meal, or for a coffee. Even if we cannot go out to a coffee shop, we can still have a virtual coffee meeting with friends (where we each make a cup of coffee, and talk using the phone or online teleconferencing such as Zoom, Skype, etc.).
I believe that we need to be pro-active in creating the New Normal. Find a New Normal that works for us, whether it is virtual coffee catchup, exchanging the latest personal news via email or SMS, or (where it is possible) catching up with friends in person while social distancing.
If you are in an area that still requires higher levels of isolation, here are a few ideas. (6)
Using phone or online (Zoom, Skype, etc.):-
- Catch up with family over lunch
- Have a progressive dinner party with friends (from the dining room to lounge-room floor then dessert in the laundry)
- Just chat with friends while gossiping over coffee or wine, playing games
- Book-club anyone?
- Get a group fitness challenge going
- Celebrate birthdays! Or, celebrate just because…
- Have a virtual theme party
Other ways to socialise
- Write a letter (take your time, and choose beautiful paper and use a coloured pen. Make a work of art!)
- Chat over the fence
- Have a balcony or driveway catchup
- Do grocery shopping for someone in need
- Support local businesses (e.g. buy food and drinks from a local cafe, buy clothes from a local shop) and share what you have done after wards via phone, social media, or online teleconference.
As restrictions ease, it will become easier to socialise. Until then, its important to keep in contact with friends and family, for their benefit – but also for our own mental health.
5. Create and find pockets of joy
Another use for our journal!
Make a note of the positive items that happen, or that you notice, during the day. It could be as simple as “the sun is shining”, or “my morning cup of coffee tasted great”.
The idea of noting positive things comes from an approach called ‘positive psychology’ founded by Martin Seligman (7).
“Look for three things in a person – intelligence, energy & integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two” – Warren Buffet.
Part of this is to concentrate on spending time with positive people who support us. This can be time spent physically with them, or even time spent on the phone, on an online call, or communicating via social media. If we are going through a difficult time, its important to have supporters around us who are positive and upbeat about the situation. It is also important to have people who support us in achieving our plan for the future (see sections 2 and 3 above).
Of course, this doesn’t mean to exclude friends or relatives who are finding it hard to cope with the current situation. They need our help to support their own mental health, and they may need our encouragement to seek out medical assistance as well.
6. Stay informed but not alarmed
We need to keep up to date with news as we adjust to the current New Normal, as well as work towards our ‘New’ New Normal for after the pandemic. To avoid news overload:-
- Tune into reputable sources such as the recognised news channels. Keep away from the more sensational media outlets (you know who they are!) , and limit exposure to news. Reading or watching the news once or twice per day is probably enough.
- Place greater emphasis on developments locally rather than globally when estimating your risk of contracting COVID-19. This helps you to be appropriately concerned rather than get caught up in anxiety.
- Remember the advice – Wash your hands regularly, keep a safe distance from others and keep up with the rules as they change so you know what you can and cannot do. Remember these rules have been very effective at keeping the infection rate low in Australia.
We can use this time to consider what we want in our future, quit habits which do not work for us, and start new habits that we want to help us the future.
On a larger community scale, COVID-19 has highlighted some areas that may need to change – e.g. key vulnerabilities in social safety nets, and benefits such as paid sick leave or good quality healthcare coverage (8).
The pandemic is likely to change us as individuals, families, organisations, and countries. While we are waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end, we can use this time to our advantage in planning our future life. This will allow us to make improvements in our personal lives, business lives, and as a community.
I hope this has been of some assistance to you. As a hypnotherapist who uses a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and hypnosis, I can help you use the power of your subconscious mind to stop unwanted habits, improve confidence, and help you create the vision for your future.
Please feel free to contact me (Lisa) for a chat about your specific circumstances. You can do this by phoning 0403 932311, or to ensure that I am available at a time convenient for you, booking a phone call in advance.
- Cornain, E. (4 May 2020) The New Normal: How life has changed due to COVID-19 (and tips to help you cope) https://theskillcollective.com/blog/coronavirus-new-normal
- Axelrod, J. (8 July 2020) The 5 stages of loss and grief. https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/
- Wood, W., Tam, L., & Witt, M. G. (2005). Changing circumstances, disrupting habits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(6), 918–933. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.528
- Vijaya Manicavasagar After COVID-19, what will ‘normal’ life be like? https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/news/after-covid-19-what-will-normal-life-be-like/
- McDonald, G.M. and Bushey, M.L. 7 ways to rebuild your life after COVID-19 https://primewomen.com/second-acts/personal-growth/rebuild-after-covid-19-self-fulfillment/
- Anon. (16 April 2020). Staying social whilst social distancing: How to remain connected iso-style. https://theskillcollective.com/blog/coronavirus-social-distancing
- Ackerman, C.E. (16 April 2020). What is Positive Psychology & Why is It Important? https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-positive-psychology-definition/
- Deutsche Bank Research Konzept – Life after COVID-19 https://www.dbresearch.com/PROD/RPS_EN-PROD/PROD0000000000507960/Konzept_%23_18%3A_Life_after_covid-19.PDF
- Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash