I keep hearing people say, “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.” What is “normal?” I think what they really mean is, “I can’t wait until things get back to the way they used to be before (insert tragedy or trauma here).
The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s an uneventful day that goes by or when traumatic events occur, there’s no going back to the way things used to be. In the case of a typical day, your body has changed, you’ve gotten a bit older, cells have died, you have new ones, and you may be in the process of creating new neural pathways in the brain. In the case of the trauma of some sort, the effects are more evident and impactful, and the bottom line is that things will not go back to the way they were before – they can’t. Something essential has changed.
Taking a Mindful Approach
What you can do is to decide how you want to proceed with a mindful approach. Continuing to lament what used to be only increases the suffering you experience.
So, how do you reduce that suffering in a mindful way? Here are three ways to mindfully navigate the new normal:
- Stay present. Notice when your thoughts drift off to the past, or you start to trip into the future trying to control what happens next with your thoughts. Worrying takes you out of the present moment. When you are fully present you have an increased ability to respond skillfully to whatever is in front of you instead of reacting out of fear, anger, pain, or other difficult emotions.
- Be honest with yourself.The event is not as important as your response to it is. When you see your situation clearly, you are better equipped to manage how you respond and your decisions about how to proceed will be much more effective.
- Change your perspective. See the situation from another angle. There are at least two ways to see things. You may have to really sit with something to see the value in it, but it’s there. What is it?
Just because something bad happened doesn’t mean you need to suffer for the rest of your days. But it’s your choice. Decide how you’re going to navigate your new normal. You DO get to choose.
If you’d like help with that I’m starting a new class in January called, you guessed it – Navigating the New Normal.