Why Do I Fight Against This New Normal?

covid 19 mental health

What a year 2020 was!

All of us who thought we were in good enough control over our lives got a lesson in what it feels like to not be in control. Suddenly, we were not in charge. Not only was the future unknown but the near present felt very unpredictable as well.

Thrownness as a fact of life

No matter how omnipotent or in control we want to be, the truth is that as humans we have to accept that there are non-negotiable aspects to our life. In existential therapy we call them existential givens. They are conditions that are inherent in human existence. 

In April last year, while in the very early days of the pandemic, I reflected on my perspective. In the article I wrote:

The Stoic philosophers teach us how nothing except our minds are under control. We cannot control other people, not what happens to us. Even our bodies are, to a great extent, beyond our control. And yet, we hold the belief that we can control our lives —and often for long stretches of time we feel we are in charge. However, this pandemic has shown us how little control we have. These experiences of thrownness, experiences where we have no control over what happens to us, can shake us to the core. We will have to accept that much of what we will experience in the next weeks or months is not what we would have wanted. 

What does new normal mean?

As the pandemic progressed we had to get used to new restrictions and regulations and more uncertainty. Some restrictions are no longer in place, some will be with us for possibly years to come. The uncertainty lingers on.

Life has changed. For some more than others but no one can claim that their lives have been untouched by the pandemic.

Just as there have been no two identical experiences of the pandemic, there are no two identical experiences of this new life we are living.

New normal often refers to working from home. It also refers to having to find new ways to exercise, socialize and participate in many activities.

This new normal has created new struggles. We need to find healthy coping strategies instead of overeating, watching too much TV or resorting to alcohol. Fights with and tension between family members and the stresses of working from home coupled with distance learning are common. Loss, loneliness and isolation are very real and painful experiences for many. 

Some people have managed to turn lockdown into a reset and have turned their lives around. They have re-evaluated their priorities, shed bad habits and embraced good ones. Others have seen their lives slowly disintegrate.

Anxiety when facing the unpredictable

I wrote in April:

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling under threat as it endangers everything that helps us feel safe and secure in life. We are in an unpredictable situation where we have little control over what will happen, our lives and the lives of our loved ones are at risk and we are facing a novel situation and an unpredictable future. A normal human response to unpredictability and lack of influence is anxiety.

It is normal to feel anxious when facing a new and unpredictable situation. Anxiety and unease stem from the realization that what we hold dear is being threatened.

Past experiences interfering with the present

You may recognize that your unease about the need for a new normal is stronger than expected.

It is possible that you have had past experiences where you have struggled to cope. This anxiety is very different from healthy anxiety when faced with undesired changes.

If this is the case, recognize that your dread is understandable when put in the context of your life experiences. You may need to seek professional help to work through these past experiences.

Why am I fighting the new normal?

You are fortunate if this pandemic has helped you realize that you loved your old life and want to continue this lifestyle. You have lived that honors your values and you should continue to live a life that meets your core needs.

If, however, you recognize that you are fighting or avoiding the reality of the new normal. The new normal will not go away by ignoring it, denying it or by being angered by it. When facing an anxiety inducing situation we must move through the experience rather than avoid it or going around it. 

The danger of avoidance is that you may pay a higher price by walking away from the situation rather than confronting it.

Your reluctance to accept life as it is now may be telling you that you need to re-evaluate and question your sources of meaning.

Is the threat of giving in to your reluctance to accept and adjust to the new normal bigger than that of moving forward? By confronting your fears you may honoring your values. Not standing up to your fears could lead to losing something important.

We need to accept and admit that we are feeling dread an unease when facing the anxiety provoking situation—and then act despite that anxiety.

…courage consists not of the absence of fear and anxiety but of the capacity to move ahead even though one is afraid.

Rollo May

When we stand up to our fears, we are defending a deeper meaning and purpose in life. This meaning is more valuable to us than not having to face the terrifying situation.

Accept the challenge and create your own new normal

Your reluctance to accept life as it is now may be telling you that you need to re-evaluate and question your sources of meaning.

Confronting your fears is scary. Rather than blindly acting, slow down the process.

Ask yourself, if your anxiety were a challenge, what kind of a challenge would it be? Is there an existing problem that the new normal has brought to light? Your challenge is to identify the problem and find solutions to it.

Can you see this challenge as an adventure, perhaps? If an adventure is too much to ask, could this be an opportunity for you to explore what resolve and determination look like?

Carve out some time for yourself to imagine the life you want to live. Use our mindful journaling prompts to help you visualize the life and relationships that you want. 

Ff your anxiety is historical, you should consider seeking professional help to work through it.

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Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.

Articles on www.aureliapsychology.com may feature the advice of a licensed expert or other non-clinicians and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a trained professional. In an emergency, please seek help from your local medical or law enforcement services.


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