Adapting to Change

covid-19 mental health wellness

I’ve started an Adapting to Change Tips series to help us better navigate a world turned upside down by COVID-19. You can also find these tips on our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn). In case you missed any of the tips, here they are, all in one place! This series explores the reasons why we feel the way we feel as the world shifts around us and how we can get our sense of self back on track.

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Adjusting to the New Normal

We're all keen to arrive at the promised destination of 'the new normal' - a point at which we again feel calm, ordered and in control. But what if that time never comes? What if 'the new normal' is indefinite uncertainty? It's looking ever more likely, at least for the next few years.

Adapting to constant change is unsettling, nay exhausting, but over the coming weeks we'll explore concepts and ideas for getting a little more comfortable with uncertainty.

Let's start with a question; Have you found 'a new normal yet?'


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Surge Capacity

To get some semblance of order back in our lives, most of us have been using 'surge capacity' to operate. Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, defines 'surge capacity' as "a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters." However, natural disasters occur within a time frame.  Which means that, in this indefinite 'new normal', we've nearly depleted our surge capacity.   Do you feel that you've reached maximum surge capacity?

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Ambiguous Loss

Not only have we reached 'surge capacity', but we are also dealing with unprocessed grief due to ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss is any loss that’s unclear and lacks a resolution. In the case of a global pandemic, what we struggle with most is the loss of a way of life. How do we come to accept a 'new normal' when the only thing certain is indefinite uncertainty? While being "solutions-oriented" is a good personal operating system to run on for almost all aspects of life,  it makes it harder for us to accept that some situations may not have a clear and definite least not for a while.  What are the things you miss most from the "old normal"?

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Accept The New

Grieving over ambiguous loss requires some creativity. The well-worn saying goes '"these are unprecedented times" and there is no playbook on how to cope during the pandemic. We each have to pave the way.   While I've had it with hearing about the "new normal", accepting the new is the only way we can allow ourselves the mental space to grow through and around this type of adversity. No. It doesn't mean giving up. It means adjusting your baseline in order to see what is now possible.  Do you feel adjusted to the 'new normal'?

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It’s Okay To Let Go

Expect less of yourself. All this adjusting and self isolating and physical distancing is exhausting. No one is expected to function at full capacity right now. So let go of self imposed expectations. This does not mean to lower your standards. This means to conserve the amount of f**** you give. Not everything deserves your time, energy, and constant attention. It's okay, let go.   As a person who needs to be in control, I have to constantly remind myself to practice this. Anyone having the same problem?

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Grief Isn’t Linear

We're all familiar with the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But grief doesn't come in that order. Everyone experiences grief differently. Right now, I'm cycling through denial and anger - mostly anger. Bargaining and depression make their way into the mix sometimes - but anger is the most evident stage. I see it everywhere. I don't see a lot of acceptance though. But I might be wrong. Acceptance looks different for everyone, too. Sometimes acceptance looks like an intimate birthday celebration with party hats and five friends over some video conferencing tool that has fun filters with a staunch resolve to have fun in spite of all this.  What does acceptance look like for you?

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Embrace The Irrational

Pauline Boss, PhD, a family therapist and professor emeritus of social sciences at the University of Minnesota, who specialises in 'ambiguous loss' says there’s an alternative to binary thinking that many people find helpful in dealing with ambiguous loss. She calls it “both-and'' thinking, and sometimes it means embracing a bit of the irrational."  Staying rational in irrational times feels like a tall order for most of us, especially if you're one of those people who absolutely must make sense of it all. You only end up stressing yourself out. But if you take the time to explore alternative explanations, however irrational they may be, you might be able to see another solution in the process or, at the very least, have a laugh at the absurdity of it all.  Occasionally, my chat groups become really quiet. I explain that away by thinking that we are observing a (prolonged) moment of silence. Then the noise starts up again and I breathe a sigh of relief that everyone is alive and well. Have you ever had a chance to practice “both-and'' thinking?

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Explore Fulfilling Activities

This pandemic has limited the number of self-care activities for us to enjoy. The irony is that this is when we need self-care the most. Most of these self-care activities involve social gathering (going to concerts, getting a mani-pedi, swimming at the local pool, seeing a movie, going to a game, taking yoga classes, etc.) and are definitely restricted. This forces us to get creative with our self-care activities. We need to explore new self care activities or better yet, revisit old ones.   The best self-care activities involve tapping into your creativity: cooking, painting, gardening, D-I-Y house projects, etc. This is because they have a planning element to them. This addresses our human need to be in control and to be productive.  What self-care activities have you taken up/revisited lately?

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Invest In Relationships

The support systems that you have relied on (friends, family, church, school, etc.) might not be readily (physically) available to you, so you might feel that you have to do everything by yourself. Don't. Recognize that these support systems are still there (albeit on a socially distant basis). Remember that most of our happiness depends on the strength of our relationships. So, make an effort to reach out to your social groups and strengthen those relationships!

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Build Resilience

Going through challenges builds resilience, but that’s not the only way to strengthen your resilience muscle. Focusing on your health like: getting enough sleep, eating well, getting enough exercise, having time to meditate, practicing self compassion and gratitude, building connections and learning to say NO are all other ways to build your resilience bank account.


Which of these tips worked for you? Do you have any ‘lockdown life tips’ to share? Share them with us in the comments! I hope you and yours are doing well and staying safe and healthy.


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