This phrase, “new normal,” seems to be a bit of a buzz phrase these days. Ironically, I have been mulling over this idea of my “new normal” for months and before any of the COVID-19 scare came along. The reason? Health struggles necessitate each season to have a new normal. I’m sure you’ve felt this way with various struggles and seasons in your life too.
Two years ago, my life looked completely different than it does now. I was bedridden and could barely walk for more than 10 minutes. Every cell in my body felt like it was nauseous all the time. I stopped dreaming about future travel adventures or where I wanted to work or what hobbies I could enjoy. I was in survival mode; in order to cope, I was forced to think only about getting through the day, the hour, the moment.
Fast forward two years. Now I am able to take hour-long walks without feeling like I want to die. I do yoga almost every day and can bake bread and lift heavy pots and pans in and out of the oven. I am so very independent in contrast to just a year or two ago. Yes, I have my bad days; but I’m dreaming again. I’m hoping that after the shelter in place is over, I will be strong enough to travel overseas, join an adult ballet class again or maybe even hip hop classes regularly.
These two realities are so extremely opposite. For yourself, I’m sure you have the same feeling where the season “before” was so very different from the current one. Losing a close family member or friend, divorce, bankruptcy, job loss, or the changes that the coronavirus has brought about. It may even be the pains of adjusting to new and good things, like new jobs, more time on our hands (thanks, shelter in place), or a new marriage. We think the season “before” may never end, until we are thrust headfirst into our new reality.
So what do we do with all the change?
We get to decide. We get to choose to see the good in the “different.” We have to look for ways that it can bring benefit and healing to our souls and bodies. Even if we have to look really, really hard, it’s worth the time.
Of course we will need to adjust. We grieve. We feel awkward for a bit. We feel a little (or a lot) lost. We cry and scream or eat some extra ice cream or whatever we need to for a little while. But then we need to deliberately choose what our next step will be and obediently walk in it.
I’ve been journaling in my little gray leather-bound journal for a while now on this topic. Writing things out has made me mull over some important “new normals” for this season that I’m choosing. In embracing them, I’m hopeful and I’m looking forward to developing habits that will last me far beyond just this shelter in place. After all, humans are not what we believe. We are what we do.
I’m going to vulnerably show you some of my goals so that, if you feel so inclined, you can sit down with a cup of tea and a cookie and write yours down too. Maybe, it will give you some ideas.
- Walking Everyday. Even if it’s only a 15-minute walk. If I can’t do a 15-minute walk, then I should be resting and laying low the rest of the day.
- Keeping up with Stretching, Yoga, and Strengthening. As often as I feel well enough to without getting sore (personal necessity for my specific muscle-related autoimmune disease), I should be building up at least one main muscle group every day.
- Personal Decision-Making. Practice letting myself think through what I really want and need in given situations before hearing others’ decisions “for me.” This includes pausing long enough to give myself time to think and actually choosing to go with what I know I need even if it’s not the popular idea.
- Making and Abiding by a Schedule. This is to feel a sense of drive and purpose while I am at home and have time on my hands. I’ve found by trying this over the last week of setting a rough schedule that it actually works! It allows for a bit of momentum and rhythm to build.
- Cultivating Spontaneity. I am growing in my ability to be spontaneous and do more fun, silly things. This might even look like stopping to smell a rose while I’m on a walk or trying to do a cartwheel (someday I’ll get there)! “Watching myself” gain back various physical skills is good, however, strange. It will inevitably involve failure and looking stupid sometimes, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s better to be the kind of human who has no regrets than the one who always played it safe but didn’t really live.
- Overdoing it and Adjusting Accordingly. In this season of my health improving, I will inevitably “overdo it.” This means I will be tired, worn down, and potentially discouraged. However, I must rest and recover instead of still pushing myself more. I must always remember that each day is a new day, and just because I may be tired DOES NOT mean I will be tired tomorrow or that I have somehow permanently ruined myself. The fatigue is only temporary, even if “temporary” means a couple of days or even a week.
- Breathing and Prayer. I need to continue to pray and breathe deeply on a regular basis. When anxiety is increased, this is even more necessary. It is fair to say that I am often more anxious than I realize because of the current surroundings. This fight is real, so I need to be slowing down my mind, checking in with myself, practicing deep slow breaths, and praying the Jesus prayer often (Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner). This also means I need to realistically assess when I’m feeling stressed to give myself extra time.
- Practicing 10-minute rest periods. This is pretty specific to my health situation, but hey, maybe someone needs to hear it. Regardless of whether or not I feel “good”, I should be taking regular rest periods of laying down throughout the day. This means laying down, getting off of my phone and with limited distraction. The goal is to rest as well as take care of myself by gauging my energy levels. Balance and stability is key.
- Smiling and Enjoying the Freedom. This is a unique season where I once again get to watch myself grow and develop new skills. Rejoice about it! Yes, it’s weird but it’s also beautiful. The reverse would be much more tragic, and there are different mindsets to take on in those seasons. So it’s okay to be excited about what’s ahead and to start to dream about future travels and dance plans again with open hands. Also, smiling is really good for the soul.
Your turn! Since each morning is a new opportunity to set good habits and become the more glorious and radiant version of yourself, what type of person do you want to be?
Questions you might ask yourself in your processing:
What do I want my life to look like in this season?
What type of life do I want to live, and what steps do I need to practice to get there?
What will it look like as I transition into the next big season change or over the next year?
What’s the reason I am going to do this goal? How does it benefit me?