The pandemic is not over. Life is not normal. No one knows when it will be normal again or what the new normal will look like. Writing those sentences just sparked some feelings of anxiety and sadness. I imagine that many of you are also feeling anxious, sad, upset etc. as you navigate the transition from ‘safe at home’ to allowing a bit more risk in your life.
In some communities you may feel you are taking more of a risk than in others. In some age groups you may be feeling you’re more at risk than others. If you live near the Canada-United States of America border you may feel you’re more at risk. In Northern British Columbia, where I reside, we are increasing our social bubbles, going back to in-person work in some cases, getting hair cuts, and dining in restaurants. We are shaping our new normal.
It still feels surreal to go into a restaurant and be surrounded by plexi-glass and at the same time it feels good to be out. Getting my hair cut while wearing a mask was interesting; I found myself feeling a little apprehensive as I noticed my hair stylist’s mask slipping down and exposing her nose. Am I going to get infected with the virus? Another spike of anxiety. I still have the groceries delivered and try to buy most things I need online. The three stores that I do go to – the grocery store, hardware store and pharmacy - I don’t spend a lot of time in them. I don’t browse much now.
Anxiety is a useful emotion because it can protect us from dangerous situations. For example, right now and for the foreseeable future, my anxiety is going to prevent me from flying in a commercial airline. I am okay with that. Anxiety also protects me from going to larger gatherings. I am also okay with that. What I am not okay with is when anxiety keeps me awake at night or increases my irritability so that I am frequently snapping at my husband or demotivates me so much that I find it hard to do my usual activities. So how do I change it?
First, I acknowledge my anxiety and then let it go. I engage in pleasant activities as much as I can. I spend time with my husband and we work in our small garden, watch Agatha Christie mysteries on Amazon Prime, write in my journal, connect with my friends and family members. I fully engage in my work and I cherish my connections with my students and clients both virtual and in-person. I listen to the radio whenever I am in the car and generally tune in to songs rather than talk radio – with the exception being a gardening show that I enjoy. I know that listening to music I enjoy will boost my mood so I do it. I read lots of mystery novels.
I actively look for hope. Finding hope is critical to feeling upbeat, motivated and wanting to move forward in life. So where do I find hope? I find it in the seeds in my garden that are sprouting and growing into cucumber, squash, and beans. I find it in the news articles that talk about the work that researchers are doing to find treatments for COVID-19 as well as vaccinations. I find it in the voice of my students who are talking about the efforts they are making to stay safe (e.g. wear masks, physical distance, and hand wash). I find it in the responses to my social media posts geared toward kindness to self and others. I find it in the messenger posts that my 7-year-old nephew sends me. Hope uplifts my spirit and reassures me that life in this pandemic is still good even though it is different.
I challenge you to find a piece of hope everyday.