Everyone seems focused on the light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel and getting back to “normal” once the pandemic eases, but is that what we should want – what was normal to us – or is there something else?
Maybe you’ve mentally penned a list of things you miss – flipping through the racks at T.J. Maxx or browsing shelves at the library, Sunday dinner with extended family, savoring a hug, indulging at your favorite eatery. Or going to a baseball game or picking up your kids at school. But, as only people who have been through catastrophic illness or life-altering tragedies can understand, we will never be the same as we were just two months ago.
“Normal should not be looked at as a point in time, maybe a point that we want to return to. Normal should be looked at as a journey that we take to improve our lives and our community,” said Dr. Anthony Ng, regional medical director for the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.
There are certainly aspects of life before COVID-19 that we each long for, but this is also a good time to reframe life to be more as you like it. Look at where you are in this very moment, distancing and isolating in a pandemic. Then think about the core self that has been revealed through the tumult and what you’ve created for your temporary life. Most of us can identify a few changes that we’d like hold onto permanently and a few habits we’d like to abandon for good.
“The pandemic has reduced our lives to their very foundations – home, self and family,” Dr. Ng said. “This is a good time to examine what we’re built upon and whether it truly works for us.”
“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
– Dave Hollis, author and podcaster with “Rise Together,” the # 1 health podcast on iTunes
Life sometimes becomes so hectic, Dr. Ng said, that we lose touch with what really matters to us. We don’t take good care of our bodies and minds, take relationships for granted, slip away from our spiritual core.
“Many of us are missing too much of our lives because we’re working or rushing around doing life,” Dr. Ng said. “We’re not living in the present and we’re crowding out the good things.”
People have also found that helping others in need – whether through making and donating protective masks, putting up signs of appreciation for frontline workers or leaving a plate of brownies for an elderly neighbor – is fulfilling and important.
As society reopens, normal will take on a new meaning. There will still be degrees of social distancing, masks will still be worn and activities like concerts and trips to the beach might be cancelled. But Dr. Ng said what is allowed in your life is largely up to you.
“You don’t need to fall into old, bad habits or move mindlessly through the cycle of life,” he said.
You can keep the value you might have found while sheltering in place by:
- Maintaining small rituals like after-dinner walks with your partner or kids.
- Following through with new or developed hobbies instead of spending all your free time plugged into work email or other electronics.
- Being kind to each other. That includes those in your home, neighborhood and even strangers.
- Nurturing something, from friendships to gardens. Be part of helping something flourish.
- Staying connected to your deepest values and reflect them in your actions and choices.
The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.
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