From crisis to opportunity: Recognize where you are at, reset your new normal and regain your vitality

Who would have guessed back in March that we would still be living with the COVID-19 pandemic in November? And yet, here we are. In fact, statistics from the media seem to suggest that we can expect a few more months of living through this crisis.

For some of us, the days this year may have felt exceptionally long, a few others may say they have been short, and some may say they have rolled into one long, blurry, pandemic haze.

One thing is certain – life goes on, pandemic or not. Life is a precious gift; the COVID deaths have been a bleak reminder. We get one shot at making our life the best it can be, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

If you haven’t already done so, take stock of your year in 2020 and think about how you want to live your life in 2021 – who do you want to be, what do you want to do, and what do you want to have?

The pandemic will bring what it will but your response to those events, and any other external circumstances and life events, is completely within your control. You need not feel stuck or hopeless. It is a choice and decision you make. It can be liberating and empowering to remember that you have the power to choose how you react to events and to other people.

Recognize where you are at

When faced with a crisis there are many ways in which people respond. Let’s look at the Change Curve theory as it applies to the pandemic:

Shock and denial: thoughts such as “is this really happening?”, “this won’t affect me”, “this is a problem in other parts of the world; it won’t happen in Canada”.  We may refuse to believe the issue is real and is happening.

Frustration and anger: at the impact and consequences including panic buying, physical and social distancing, business and school closures, changes to work schedules and routines etc. We may be fearful, assign blame, believe conspiracy theories, resist, and protest.

Depression and panic: inevitable and overwhelming thoughts creep in “will I lose my job?”, “how will I support my family?”, “when will I see my friends and family again?”, “how will I manage?”, “when will this end?”.

Acceptance: as time goes on we start to realize that we are all in this together, that we cannot go back to how things were pre-COVID, that our routines have changed and we may need to pivot, adapt, do things differently. The sooner we get to this stage, the quicker we can let go of the negative reactions, reduce our stress levels, and get back on track.

Problem solving and decision making: we find creative solutions to establish a ‘new normal’. We take time to find the lessons and the positives and make required changes. As we notice, and experiment with, new opportunities, we may discover new strengths, confidence, and determination.

Do you recognize which stages you have moved through in 2020? Maybe you moved back and forth between a few stages, having some good days and some not-so-good. What might you need to reflect on and learn to move forward and stay healthy, physically, and emotionally?

Reset your ‘new normal’

The challenges we continue to experience with the pandemic provide an ongoing opportunity to reset any unhelpful (and therefore unhealthy) response patterns – be they thoughts, feelings or behaviours.

Some of us may have developed a few unhealthy ways of coping with the anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic and protecting ourselves against its negative effects e.g. overeating, comfort eating, over use of stimulants (alcohol, caffeine), digital distractions (social media, TV, media, video games), online purchasing/retail therapy, disconnecting from others etc.

Is it time to say “cancel” or ‘stop” to a habit or response that is causing you unnecessary stress, draining your energy and/or making you feel unwell? Can you refocus to use your time and energy more purposefully, so you keep moving forward, becoming more of the person you want to be in 2021? What intentions or goals will help you stay on track to a happy and healthy life?

Regain your vitality

Our behaviours and thoughts can trigger either a stress response or a relaxation response in the body. When we stay in a prolonged state of fear and anxiety it puts our body under stress and keeps our natural relaxation response from operating at its best. This weakens our body’s defence systems designed to help us fight and recover from illness. Consequently, we end up sick as our immune system becomes depleted.

Healthy habits for our body and mind are key to staying strong and resilient to deal with the inevitable stresses and setbacks in life, as well as fight and recover from illnesses.

What three new habits could you keep?

Consider one physical, one mental and one social habit, e.g. get outside for 20 mins of air and movement every day, learn/practise some deep breathing techniques to remain calm, contact one friend or family member every week.

Be proactive and take control of your mental and physical health and wellbeing. It remains your best defence against the COVID crisis.