SUBWAYClient Deze recently told me: “I just want my life back. I want to go back to normal. “She was expressing a feeling that many of us feel, but in that statement there was a truth that most of us also know: there is no ‘return to normality’.
In the past 12 months, the overwhelming events of Covid-19 have changed our lives. For some it has been the traumatic death of an important person; for others, the devastating loss of their job; and for everyone, the loss of their routines, life events and habitual ways of being. Everyone has their own unique response to change, which will be as true in opening restrictions as it is in closing. Some may find that it will take as much psychological energy to return to the world as to withdraw from it.
For many, Covid-19 will be the defining experience of their lives to date, and it has inevitably changed us all. We may want to resist that change and the fear it creates. But, as annoying as it may be, it is through discomfort that we face our new reality. In fact, the things we do to block that discomfort are the things that ultimately hurt us. The harsh truth is: we have to adapt to grow.
The research in the field of lifespan development is strong: Those who try to stay rigidly the same are more likely to suffer. On the other hand, research shows that one possible outcome of loss, surprisingly, is what we call post-traumatic growth. This is not a superficial change, it just turns a bad thing into a good thing. Rather, when we allow ourselves to acknowledge and mourn the pain of the event we have lived through, experiencing and expressing the loss, we may also find that in the process of adjustment, we grow out of it. It often means that we are more resilient than we expected, that our perspective on what matters has changed, and that we take new strength from the meaning that life now has for us. As a grief psychotherapist, I have been examining my own experience and that of my clients to identify ways we can learn from it.
When I look back, I know that all the implications of how the past year produced changes in me are still unfolding. At the height of the crisis, I recognized my hunger for security and my reluctance to give up old family habits. This developed into something seemingly insignificant: my nagging need to make plans. I was forced to face the unpleasant process of loss whenever, believing that optimism was the best attitude to have, I stubbornly made a plan, meeting my newborn grandson or traveling to Scotland, only to feel the thud of disappointment. when i did. cancel. This was followed by a mini physiological storm of anguish as it vented through my mind and body, finally releasing me into my new reality, which I had to accept. I had to learn to live with uncertainty. I was no longer in control.
This cycle could start and end in a matter of hours; on one level it wasn’t a big deal. But my adaptation of my core belief that I can’t control what happens, I can only control my response when external events hit me, is profound. Now I can free myself from the false belief that I am “in charge” and allow myself to enjoy the freedom of living in the moment. I hope it stays.
One of the big changes I’ve heard from clients, friends, and colleagues is how your relationship has altered over time. Before the pandemic, hustle and bustle was one of the craziest hallmarks of value, and of course it drove people to exhaustion. For many of us, living and working from home has brought abundance of time, rather than the default poverty of time. Though for the fathers, the homeschooling months drove that crazy, particularly for the mothers.
But not having to commute or travel to meetings, or even socialize, means that people have found they have free time. My client Max told me he had an epiphany: “I will never live my life at that rate again. I was crazy. I traveled non-stop, running at 160 km / h, and when I got home on the weekend I was totally exhausted. “Work took the best of him, and home the” scum. “The wealth of having more time has brought people the opportunity to discover versions of themselves that had been pressured into hiding.
For some, that has been surprisingly enriching. Their creativity has grown and they have more time for sports and fitness. For people to continue to create space for those versions of themselves, they will need to commit to the decision to do so. This will be most effective if you have a clear vision of who you want to be and how you would feel, and you can imagine your renewed confidence if you did. (See the chart below for a framework to follow.)
For me, the most valuable aspect of having more time is that it allows all of us to prioritize our relationships. This includes our family, our colleagues, and our friends. The absence of being with people has been one of the most difficult and chilling parts of the confinement.
Having meaningful and connected relationships means we live longer; they are healthier, richer, happier; and even have less pain as we age. Love is a strong medicine. But love takes time. You can’t survive on a slim diet of few conversations and transactional decisions. We need time to get closer, connect openly, and be together. It takes time to unravel and resolve misunderstandings and fights, time to repair after a fight, which is the foundation of trusting relationships. Will we incorporate this understanding of how important the connection is after the crash? It’s hard to resist slipping back into old patterns, but I suppose the painful mark of non-connection will lead to the boldness of wanting to live differently.
One of the key aspects of post-traumatic growth is that it changes our perception of what matters and amplifies our gratitude for the little things and just being alive. There is nothing like a health pandemic to raise awareness about our mortality and the mortality of those we love. People have had more conversations about death and dying in the last year than in their entire lives and, paradoxically, it has meant that we value life more. It has radically altered our view of ourselves and the future we hope for. Many of our concerns about performance and achievement have diminished as we recognize that the meaning of life is a more substantive goal.
At the other end of the spectrum, it has rejuvenated our joy in the little things. Who would have thought that hugging a friend and sitting down to dinner with him in a cafe would feel like the best gift? We should strive to never take that for granted as we go along.
The unlocking process is likely to be complicated for some. I have clients who are afraid of not knowing how to socialize more; they have fire – afraid to go out. One of my most successful clients, who used to fly regularly, was surprised to feel a spike of fear when his colleague said he needed to meet him in Germany. The prospect of travel and the hustle and bustle of office life is filling many with dread. The key to managing it is to lean on it, not fight it. Turn to yourself with compassion and name your fears. Allow them. Breathe. Write them down. Go slowly, don’t strain; go to the edge of your comfort zone in small steps. Give yourself credit for getting there, and when it’s easy for you, push yourself to try something else. It will take time.
We would not have chosen to have this experience, and yet we must not miss the opportunity to learn what it has given us. If we have the courage to face our perception with self-pity, to learn to know ourselves rather than distract ourselves, then change will bring growth.
Names have been changed
A guided reflection on change
Get a notebook and write down your answers, or talk to someone you trust and take turns exploring these questions.
What has changed?
In your relationship with yourself? Your relationships with friends and family? Your relationships with work and health, and any other important aspect of your life?
Of those changes…
Which ones would you like to keep? How could you support yourself to embed them? This will include what you tell yourself, as well as your habits and decisions.
What are the things that are likely to get in the way?
Remember, small steps can go a long way.
Imagine yourself a year from now, having adjusted and transitioned into the version of yourself and your life that you want. How would that feel? What would be your belief about yourself? Keep a list; Make a mood board or Pinterest board with images that will inspire you for weeks and months to come. Add and change it, as it adapts and changes.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism