How to Stay Normal when the World is Anything But
I refuse to consider these very trying times to be our “new normal.” We will not always have to stay six feet away and hold our breath around everyone we pass by. We will not always have to eye fellow emergency shoppers suspiciously, wondering if they have a stockpile of toilet paper in their garage (and if they’d be willing to trade for our last package of frozen vegetables). We will not always have to wait for new numbers to come in every evening, hoping that they might be going down instead of multiplying, and praying for the very real people behind those statistics and those bravely caring for them. Although ... that last part might not be a bad habit to carry over when the world rights itself again.
This may not be normal, but it is our current reality; and the anxiety of dealing with it can have the impact of a sledge hammer on our physical and mental health. Here are a few tips for hanging on to your own version of normal:
- Think Like Grandma - My grandmother, a woman whose wisdom was as simple and limitless as her heart, lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic, raised eight children through the Great Depression, came through nights with her husband serving as Air Raid Warden and her eldest sons fighting overseas, and guided her family through good times and bad. Her practical philosophy: “Get up, wash your face, brush your hair, get dressed, and then get on with it.” There are some things that are in your control - take care of those - and then there are some you just have to muddle through. And the kicker: “Never forget there’s always someone carrying a heavier burden than you are.”
- Save the What If’s? for fiction - Writers know the golden key to storytelling is constantly asking, “What if…?” Letting your mind spin webs of intriguing scenarios, each topping the previous one, makes for compelling plot lines and enchanting characters. What if the rebels fought back against the Empire? What if marriage to a boorish-but-handsome Northerner was the only way to save your beloved southern plantation? What if a demonic car tire had the power to make people’s heads explode? (That, too, is an actual movie. It’s called Rubber. We own it. Go figure.)
- This same technique, however, is even more dangerous when you use it to attempt to predict reality. The constant flood of information, even the accurate sort, can be weaponized by over analyzing without some safeguards. Anxiety is biochemical warfare, and you become your own worst enemy. When you find yourself cast as the lead in your own end-of-the-world docu-drama, stop. Take a deep breath. Turn your mind to something else until you can get a clearer perspective. Remember, even Sylvia Brown got it wrong more times than right. (And if you do have literary aspirations, now’s the perfect time to get it off your mind and down on paper.)
- Move - Those new to working remotely can find an eight hour day can quickly become twelve hours glued to the computer screen without the usual benchmarks designating a change of routine. Sitting so long, whether working at a desk or binge-watching Netflix from the couch, does nobody’s body any favors. Occasional trips to the kitchen for a snack ration doesn’t count as movement. Plus, there really is such a thing as a runner’s high. (I’ve never gotten anything but a stitch in my side from running, but the research proves it’s true.) You don’t need to train for a marathon to benefit. Stretch. Take a walk. Garden. Play Disney soundtracks on YouTube and boogie while you mop the floor. Play Freeze Tag with your kids. Whatever. Just get your body moving and your blood flowing. Think of the endorphins released by physical activity as the inner equivalent of lotion on your over hand-sanitized hands. Right now, it’s a necessity.
- Reach Out - figuratively, of course - I can’t help but wonder how different this ordeal would have been pre-social media. Facebook, Zoom, Skype, and their ilk have been lifelines for many, providing a way to stay #alonetogether. Not everyone is linked in, though, so don’t forget to call and check-in with family and friends who could benefit from some non-virtual company. The same goes for when you’re the one in need of a friendly voice. We’re social creatures, even those of us who’d rather not believe it, and sometimes you just need to touch base with someone who gets you. We’re all in this together, even if it is from behind the duct tape line.
- Disconnect - “Your computer works better when shut down and turned back on again; so will you.” -- I totally stole that from a random Pinterest pin, and it probably seems slightly contradictory to the above, but no less important. Sometimes you just have to turn it all off - everything. The TV, the news feeds, the phone, the work, the worries. Sit on your front steps or in the yard with your beverage of choice and simply let it go. Listen to the birds. Enjoy the sunset. Watch the crabgrass grow. Be quiet, be still. Be. You’re welcome.
- Count Your Blessings - Make it a point to be grateful for what you do have every day. If you can’t find even one thing, you’re not looking in the right place. The truth is the world is a scary place right now, but the world has always been a scary place from someone’s point of view (dinosaurs::giant blazing meteor). Grandma was right again; there is always someone going through a tougher time than you are. So be grateful and be kind (you may not always recognize that “someone” when your paths cross) because kindness, to others and to yourself, is the world’s most powerful medicine.
Compiled by Caroline Dunsheath, Sr. Library Assistant