New Normals and Finding Purpose in a Pandemic
Life is dynamic. It’s ever changing. The unexpected and unknowns have always existed, but are now made glaringly obvious by the Covid-19 Pandemic. This post isn’t going to share platitudes or provide well-meaning promises about the future, but instead I want to take a moment to provide something that many people seem to be overlooking right now: validate your worries and concerns. Sometimes, it is important to simply share the idea of acceptance and to remind all of us what we can and can’t control. This way, we can justify and recognize our fears in a healthy way, while also continuing to live life day to day.
First, remind yourself that normal is relative.
What you think is normal may not be what your neighbor, coworker, partner, or even close friends think is normal, and that's okay. Additionally, what was “normal” six months ago may not be anymore, and that’s okay too!
Second, the only thing we can control in life is ourselves.
Ultimately, you have no right or responsibility for others actions or thoughts. We like to think that we can help each other and guide one another to “good” choices, but the truth is, we can only control ourselves in the end and other people can only control themselves.
Third, running from fears reinforces a life of isolation.
Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our body’s natural instinct is to fear certain things that endanger it, but when we let our minds run wild with “what if’s” we may end up fearing too much too often.
Fourth, demonstrating gratitude begets a more positive mood.
A proven method to improve your mood is to practice gratitude. Even if you are in the midst of an epic pandemic and the world seems out of control, meditating on a few things you're grateful for can turn a rough day around.
And Fifth, we can find gems of positivity in even the darkest of crevices.
Optimism isn’t easy for us these days, but where we sometimes see the big negative in our lives, we can find a bit of positive if we just consciously look for it. For instance, I bet you didn't expect to get to spend so much more quality time with your family this past year or maybe you are saving on gas because of working from home?
Even before Covid hit and the social/political unrest of the country came to a fevered pitch, life was not static nor was it linear. Circumstances change. Social norms shift. Jobs come and go. Life throws curve balls. So what now?
I recently read an article from someone who was trying to sort out coping with people who didn’t care to wear masks or socially distance. He was very civil and diplomatic in his sharing. Something that struck me was the concept of “locus of control.” While we may do our best to wear our masks, socially distance, be mindful about exposure, etc., we cannot control whether others will do the same. So in these instances, we need to focus on what we can to mitigate our concern and risk. Maybe that’s going to a grocery store at an off time, sitting outside to eat at a restaurant, or going for walks in less crowded areas.
There are many polarizing events, situations and issues in the world. It’s overwhelming and scary. Look to people, hobbies, interests or causes to help provide solace. Finding purpose in this climate is more important than ever. When Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, looked at the experiences of those who survived the concentration camps in WWII, the big question was how did these individuals going through such a horrific experience keep hope alive? The answer was that they turned to the discovery and pursuit of what we find meaningful and purposeful.
Here a some key questions to reflect on when identifying your purpose and finding your meaning:
- What are your priorities?
- Why are they important to you?
- Are they rooted from certain values you hold? What are those values?
- What tends to make you feel fulfilled or brings you contentment?
- What motivates you? Why?
Use these questions, and the thoughts you have given them, as a rudder to the ship you’re steering. Direction can provide hope and hope can provide positivity. When we can look to a greater good and attain some fulfillment, we can overcome some of the most trying of times.
Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 17 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan here.