I’ve heard a lot about the ‘new normal’. It seems to be a bit of a catch all to encompass everything that is going on for us at the moment. All the uncertainty, anxiety, stress, worry and opportunity in our lives are tied into this new normal, which is something to live with every day, something to get used to.
But how realistic is that? And how far away from normal is this new normal? And how are we expected to make the leap to bridge the two? And, if we get right down to it, what is normal?
That last thing is a bigger question than I can answer, but I have been thinking a lot about the idea of a new normal. As a counsellor, a friend, someone experiencing lockdown themselves, I know that the range of reactions is as broad as the number of people affected.
There are some people who feel they are falling apart. And that’s ok. It is overwhelming. I hope they have the support they need, through family, friends, counselling or helplines to help them cope and put things back together.
There are some people who have moments of holding it together and moments of falling apart, sometimes in the space of the same day or even the same hour. That’s ok too. There are moments of joy and peace and moments of desperation and desolation and they hit at different times and in different ways.
There are those who will hold it together all the way through and then crumble when it’s over. That’s also ok. Sometimes we do what we need to do to get through before we allow ourselves the release.
And for all of us, this will affect us in ways we aren’t always aware of and sometimes won’t be aware of for a while to come. All of it is ok.
Because it’s not normal for anyone. There is no new normal and no right way to be. We’re all just doing the best we can, fighting our own individual battles that are unlike anyone else’s. They might be financial, emotional or physical, but they are ours and as individual as each of us.
There is a lot of advice out there on how we can help ourselves, but my view is that these are suggestions, not instructions, because no one has the instruction manual to your way of being. So they may need to be tailored. Do what works for you.
So what are the practical starting points for this?
For me, connection is important. I would suggest connecting and maintaining relationships with those important to you. Social distancing does not have to be emotional distancing. Connection with others provides the reassurance you are not alone. People are still there, but maybe not in the way you’re used to.
At the same time, know when to step back from forums such as social media. While they offer a very valid form of connection, they often lack context and deeper meaning. People post about their feelings, which are transient, and then go on with their lives. Reading endless posts about other people’s anxieties can contribute to your own and I can often feel my own sadness increasing when I read of the sadness of others. It’s ok to step away. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care for yourself.
I find doing things that give me a sense of achievement gives me a mental boost – a reason, however small, to pat myself on the back. And, for me, it also has the benefit of giving me some control in a situation where I seem to have very little. Setting our own goals can give us a sense of purpose and enables us a sense of control over how and when we achieve them.
These are all ways to care for yourself. And there are many others. Do things that you know are good for you. Or things that feel good. And that means being kind to yourself as well. Acknowledge your thoughts. They’re just thoughts, even the dark ones, and they’re not always reliable. Allow your feelings. It’s how you feel and it’s understandable if they’re not always the emotions you would choose to have. If either your thoughts or your feelings become too much, seek support. There are helpline numbers given below.
And know it’s ok.
Because we are all doing the best we can do in the best way we know how to do it. We can unpick it, and try and understand it, or we can leave it and let it be. Counselling is often about trying to do the former or living with the latter, and can be a source of help and of caring for yourself. But, however you choose to do it, take care.
Samaritans 116 123
Mind (mental health charity) 0300 123 3393
Anxiety UK 03444 775 774
Cruse Bereavement 0808 808 16777
Beat (eating disorder charity) 0808 801 0677
National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
Written by Mamta, Westmeria counsellor