It’s been three months since the world stopped moving at a pace we’ve all grown accustomed to, three months of both personal and global loss, three months of living in fear and uncertainty–unsure how to proceed or move forward. As our community slowly begins to rebuild, there is a sense that nothing will be the same again. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I witnessed a high level of disconnection and human suffering in my coaching practice. Individuals were self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, hiding in an attempt to avoid trauma, loss, and heartbreak. Others used relationships, work, shopping, exercise, etc. to escape from reality. We’ve become so immune to pain, adopting an escapism mentality, that many are oblivious to the impact this coping style has had on their personal growth.
When our society was forced to slow down, I believe many used this as an opportunity to reflect, rest, and look inward. There was a collective deep breath, a softening and an outpouring of community support. We needed this time, yet there is a real fear that we may return to our old way of existing. This is a time of change.
“I can either view it as an opportunity to adapt or spend time and energy running from the inevitable.”
As we move into the next chapter, how can we accept our new normal and stay committed to our personal well-being? Change is never easy. Oftentimes, we push back against any sign of change because the unknown is scary and unpredictable and we crave stability. Even in the most critical of situations, no matter how stressful, there is comfort in knowing the outcome. When that sense of safety is threatened, the common response is to rebel. But fighting, avoiding, or denying our experience only contributes to unnecessary anger and pain, while also stunting our emotional growth.
How do you want to show up for yourself, your family, and your community? What the last few months have taught me is that no matter how hard I may want to fight against change, the process itself will still happen, whether I’m on board or not. I can either view it as an opportunity to adapt or spend time and energy running from the inevitable.
Here are some ways to begin to heal and move forward as we collectively transition into our new normal:
1 Acknowledge & Lean into Your Feelings
The last thing many of us want to do is feel uncomfortable feelings. It’s human nature to avoid, to put anything in our path as a distraction. The problem with this type of coping style is that it disrupts the healing process by simply putting a bandage over grief or a painful experience. Instead of turning to substances, shopping, internet, exercise, or a million other distractions you may choose from, lean into the feelings and sit with them, no matter how uncomfortable. Breath work and meditation or any spiritual practice can help you process uncomfortable moments without avoiding or being too reactive, often leading to clarity. Although not always easy, giving yourself the opportunity to feel, acknowledge, cry, and express anger helps you move through your experience in a healthy way.
2 Give Yourself Time to Adapt
Feeling nervous about returning to life after quarantine is understandable. Life as you know it will be different. Give yourself time, there is no rush. Instead of jumping right in, consider what you feel, think, and need in order to be comfortable moving forward. If you’re not ready to eat at a restaurant, continue cooking for yourself or your family. Take a step back and observe how your community members are showing up and make a decision that is best for you.
3 Respond with Kindness
This unprecedented time in history has been hard on everyone. No one is immune. Understanding that people handle stress differently, it’s important to remember that their reactions are reflective of their feelings and not personal. Showing compassion for your community and treating your neighbors with kindness should be a focal point during this time. Be aware of others, practice patience, and give grace; we all need it right now.
4 Practice Gratitude
I can’t say enough about the importance of practicing gratitude and the value it has on spiritual growth. Gratitude is by far my favorite tool in managing stress, or any type of dissatisfaction and unease I may be feeling around current circumstances. Focusing on your blessings in life brings joy and awareness while helping to shift a negative perspective. I find when I take a moment to view life through the lens of abundance instead of fixating on what is lacking, my mood and well-being improves tremendously. When in a state of gratitude, you are embracing the now, not fixated on the past or future. This practice doesn’t negate your current experience. You can have pain and feel gratitude at the same time.
To begin, join an online gratitude group with like-minded individuals or start a text chain with your closest friends. Having someone to share your blessings with is an added bonus and you’re given the opportunity to create a beautiful community along the way.
5 Be of Service
There is nothing more rewarding than showing up for another person. When you take the opportunity to show empathy and offer support to your fellow beings, you are choosing to get outside of yourself, your problems, and your ego. The simplest way to be of service is to recognize the needs of others. By focusing on another, your problems seem less important, leading to a shift in perspective. In fact, being needed (in a healthy way, of course) can positively impact your well-being by building up your sense of self and nourishing your soul. Try picking up the phone and asking a friend how they are doing, offer a smile to a stranger, or hold space for someone you know is going through a tough time.
“Focusing on your blessings in life brings joy and awareness while helping to shift a negative perspective.”
Change begins with taking that first step.
What I am suggesting are daily practices, ones that take diligence and personal commitment.
Today, I am grateful, despite the losses and periods of uncertainty. I am using this experience to slow down, re-center and reflect—opening my eyes and heart to a different way of being, to put my mental health first, to learn and be willing to grow, to be intentional with my time and energy, and to show up for my community, my friends, and family. Most importantly, I am using this experience to thrive in a time of uncertainty and be present for both the beautiful and challenging moments.
I don’t know what this next chapter is going to look like for any of us. All I can do is hope we come out of this experience a little softer, kinder, and more accepting.