Trouble Shifting to the “New Normal”?

4 Signs Adjusting Is Difficult for You Photo by: Nathan Dumlao My duties in psychology calls me to watch hours of media. Films, television series, and the like come through for me to screen to provide a psychological perspective. Presently, there is a plethora of media that contains the messaging that the way in which […]

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4 Signs Adjusting Is Difficult for You

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao

My duties in psychology calls me to watch hours of media. Films, television series, and the like come through for me to screen to provide a psychological perspective. Presently, there is a plethora of media that contains the messaging that the way in which we once lived our lives has changed; and the change is here to stay, with no end in sight. Though stay at home regulations have loosened, our previous way of life is a memory of yesterday and we must find ways to adjust. Concerns about the effects of Covid-19 continue to include relentless increasing deaths within our nation and around the world.  Mentions of the unique impact the virus has on children and growing frustrations pertaining to when businesses can reopen fully in a profitable way remain popular features in the media.  These stories have saturated media coverage and share air time with the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. Previous Covid-19 guidelines resulted in barren streets that ceased traffic. Today, although facilities are making their way to open their doors gradually, patrons find that curbside delivery is less gratifying than sitting at a table to enjoy the ambience and people amongst them. Cities that have accommodated street closures for weekend patrons to enjoy a table in the street helps, yet allows restaurants limited occupancy; and thus, at times, continued limited profits.  Fears grow regarding the massive financial concerns upon the economy, their businesses and personal selves. As the weather has warmed and large crowds emerge, concerns regarding the growing number of new cases of Covid-19 have occurred with warnings of the “second surge” or a “second spike”. Bottom line, behaving in ways to keep ourselves and others safe and in good health has come with significant changes and sacrifices. 

In a previous blog, Can Remaining Informed about Covid-19 Effect Your Mental Health?, we explored whether watching media pertaining to this pandemic could create mental health challenges that would warrant attention and support. Now, we find ourselves in a time that has been labeled as “the new normal”.  The way one moves, behaves, and interacts has been shifted to a different type of navigating. Those who venture outdoors find that precautions to share the same space with others takes greater thought, planning and effort. Ways to physically connect are hindered, hugs may no longer be extended to honor social distancing and smiles are covered by masks.  This time has required a level of adjustment for many that has created discomfort, displeasure and frustration that may feel barely tolerable.  Consequently, many find themselves around others lacking a desire to self-protect and articulate the notion, “If I get it, I just do.”

Though, for some, protecting oneself remain at the forefront of importance.  While adhering to the recommendations may increase a feeling of being safe, one may find that doing so is difficult.  As a result, individuals can feel inconvenienced, annoyed, upset, resistant; and even oppositional to following what are thought to be best practices. Feeling a mixture of feelings including irritability, panic, anxiety and anger is normal when significant change is needed.  

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao

All these feelings result in an underlying feeling of stress. Tasks that were performed in a rote manner and came as second nature may now require the use of executive functioning skills, demanding one to actively allocate energy to perform simple, daily routines in a different way to keep from becoming infected or from spreading the virus. Using energy to be increasingly thoughtful regarding safe behaviors can be exhausting and the way in which we cope can vary.  For example, one may become inclined to entertain that no change is needed; reflecting a natural denial to protect against intense negative feelings and the effects of Covid-19. A second common way of coping includes noting things are not that bad; offering a different defense, a reaction formation, to manage the changes. Regardless to how one protects the psyche, when we are called to adapt, the goal is that one successfully takes the necessary precautions to be safe and that the process to do so feels manageable.  

In the event these changes evoke feelings of anxiety, feelings of helplessness and is met with defensiveness and resistance, these emotions are signals that adjusting to the “new normal” may feel overwhelming.  If you are feeling the following, adjusting may be more difficult for you and receiving support can be helpful.  A person may notice:

  1. That the feelings of discomfort are new and attributed to the changes being asked of you
  2. A sense of anxiety when thinking about the changes and while planning to perform the altered behavior
  3. A low mood, feeling sad, and tearful, and
  4. Others around you are struggling less to adapt and your concerns are greater from theirs

Adjustments can be challenging when familiar routines have been lost.  With creativity and flexibility, we can create ways to alleviate anxieties while building strategies to implement safe behaviors that can engender feeling empowered during this difficult time.  For instance, scheduling events with limited time frames can provide opportunities to use new behaviors for a short amount of time to reduce feeling overwhelmed.  Determining which behaviors were valuable and the behaviors that were not effective can assist to refine safety plans for future activities. 

As we find ways to adapt to our new normal, we can anticipate that daily tasks will take longer and will require greater attention to remain safe. Being patient with ourselves and others may be of increased importance in these times. Providing ourselves with breaks and rest will be essential to restore before additional effort is expended.  Finding changes in one’s mood and having intense feelings can provide guidance that adapting has not come easily, where reaching for support can be beneficial to assist with changes to come.  

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