Creating the New Normal

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.”

                                                                                                  – Emily Dickinson

How do you start your day?  My Sunday evening coach, Slater, is the VP of Sales for a Philadelphia-based concrete company.  His office is located about an hour away.  On any given morning he is up at 4:00 AM to hit the gym and complete a morning workout prior to heading for Philly.  He will grab his first coffee of the day as he heads out the door.  Arriving at the gym, he is greeted by the 4:30 AM crew.  The workout will be short and intense.  At this hour of the day there is little socializing; actions are purposeful and designed for efficiency.  By 6:00 he will be having the second coffee as he heads south toward the Turnpike.  He will often pull off the highway just prior to the toll booth to check emails and ready himself for the day ahead.  Slater’s morning routine is powerful; it prepares him physically and mentally for the day ahead, and it all changed on March 21 when his gym and so many other businesses were closed courtesy of the COVID-19 virus.  Here’s what’s important, it has changed his routines, but he didn’t let it change him. 

Slater’s life, my life, and the lives of so many others have changed despite our best efforts to avoid it.  My favorite toilet paper is never in stock, all contact with my clients is now virtual, it’s been three weeks since I saw the Wolfpups, and I’m one of the lucky ones.  You see, it is the routines in our lives that keep us grounded.  When disruption enters the picture, and that which is our norm is taken from us, we witness significant stress.  Add the news media’s coverage of the pandemic and social media commentary and fear enters the equation – Am I going to get sick?  Will our savings carry us?  Will there be a 401K left?  When will I see the Wolfpups again?  Are they ok?  Life can seem hopeless, but it’s not. Do you remember the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”?  Well, we’ve been handed a bushel and we need a recipe.  I think it can be found in creativity and by simply, “taking a moment”.  

Most of us are currently feeling a loss of control.  We are experiencing loss – something we didn’t want to happen, but we couldn’t control it.  It’s a very unpleasant feeling; that sense that you’re no longer in charge of your life.  Rituals and routines restore some of that control.  It is often the routines in our lives that give us a sense of control, and if we have lost them, they become the first thing that we must restore. 

Our routines serve as the crutch we need to be leaning upon as a means of managing the emotions and stress we currently face.  While the Covid 19 pandemic may have robbed us of some of our daily routines, there is nothing stopping anyone from adapting and creating new ones.  Creating new routines or rituals in the face of loss can help us feel less grief, bring families together, and let us maintain social connection with others.  How about a 7:00 Sunday evening Zoom/FaceTime family gathering, a power walk with intermittent exercises, live stream worship, or 10:00 coffee break with work colleagues via Google. You will only be limited by your imagination.

As we face an uncertain, ever-changing future, I think there is one other remedy that will help – taking a moment to be grateful.  With everything that is happening, some might think it an odd time to be grateful or to give thanks, however gratitude is easily incorporated into our lives, and it is a very effective coping strategy.  Despite everything that is happening, we still need to find reasons to be thankful. So take a moment to:

  • Grab an afternoon walk or nap.
  • Enjoy the blossoms on trees, greening lawns, and the smell of spring in the air.
  • Listen to the laughter of children.
  • Enjoy the new-found quiet of the early morning or late evening hours.

We face challenging times and there is much we cannot control.  However, we can and must choose to take control over that which serves to reassure and make us stronger.  Creating or re-creating a routine or ritual that works for you will help. Finding reasons to be thankful gives us even more strength.  Things around us are changing, but it doesn’t need to change you.  This is where our resilience or grit pays dividends.  We will get through this.  We will emerge stronger and better on the other side. That’s something to be grateful for!

Embrace the Challenge