Thriving in the "New Normal"

Most of us alive today have never been through anything like the Coronavirus Pandemic. We know that there have been other devastating illnesses in the past, but now it’s not just a page in a history book – now it’s personal! We are adjusting to unfamiliar, and often unwelcome, schedules and methods of doing what we used to take for granted in our everyday lives. “Normal” used to sound boring. Now it is our greatest desire.

Assuming that what we used to consider “normal” may be farther down the road, we come to a point in our lives when we realize we need to make the best of things as they are. This is particularly important if you are one of the many who are spending much more time at home, and especially if you live alone.

So, what can you do to infuse some “life” into existence during this time of increased isolation? Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Put Your Imagination to Work

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

While it is possible that some things will never be exactly the same, and you may feel sad about that right now, embrace the ways those changes may make life and work better in the future.

Make time to imagine a positive future for yourself, your family, and your business. Dream about the fun things you will do after the pandemic is over. Consider the new and creative ways your family and your business will operate, and even thrive, six months or a year from now. Mull over ideas in your own mind and talk about them with your spouse, family, and business associates. This will create a greater sense of hopefulness today and increase the likelihood of making your positive future happen.

Develop an Effective Daily Routine

Time may not always permit the inclusion of each of these activities but do your best to incorporate as many as you can on a daily or weekly basis.

  • Begin with gratitude
  • Stay physically active
  • Practice good nutrition
  • Relax your mind and body
  • Connect with people you love
  • Maintain reasonable work hours
  • Participate in leisure activities
  • Do something creative - play a musical instrument, paint, write, plant flowers or handcraft something with wood. These are all great ways to reduce stress and improve focus.
  • Prioritize restorative sleep

Focus on the Needs of Others

Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, was once asked following a lecture on mental health: “What would you advise a person to do, if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?” He replied, “Leave your house, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”

Clearly, this does not mean that a person with anxiety or depression is just too self-absorbed. As a psychologist, I know how debilitating mental illness is. Dr. Menninger was simply recommending an effective strategy for coping with emotional challenges that has since been consistently validated by research. For example:

  • According to a 2002 study in Pain Management Nursing, nurses suffering from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.
  • According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California and the author of The How of Happiness, people who have a tendency toward depression can often help themselves by helping others.

A great example of the power of helping others is portrayed in the movie Patch Adams which is based on the true-life story of Dr. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams. In the movie there is a brief, but powerful, dialog between Patch and Carin, the woman he loves:    

Patch: “The mental ward was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Carin: “What did the doctors do to help you?”

Patch: “The doctors didn’t help me. The patients helped me. They helped me realize that by helping them I could forget about my own problems. And I did.”

So, to thrive in the new normal, make the best of it by using your imagination to envision good things in your future, by intentionally setting healthy routines for today and by reaching out to others who are also going through difficult circumstances during this “unprecedented” time.

While these strategies can help a great deal with improving our focus and resiliency, sometimes it can also be beneficial to seek help from a medical doctor, clergy member, or counselor if your distress seems too much to bear. You’re not the only one, and you don’t have to go it alone!

Motivational author Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.” Begin imagining great things today and look forward to something good in the future – whether it’s the “old normal” or a “new normal”!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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