Your Reaction to “The New Normal”: Are My Thoughts And Feelings Normal?
How Are You? No, Really, How are you?
The answer to this question is often a resounding, “Eh.” As therapists, we see the silver lining in this: emotional honesty (we can see your eye roll). We have found that because we are in a difficult common experience, we have been able to connect more quickly with one another around difficult emotions. This seems more authentic than the old standard, “I’m fine.”
Am I Normal?
We’ve all been hearing a lot about “the new normal,” but what does that even mean during a time when everything has been upended? It’s our first time going through a global pandemic too, but we know there is comfort in learning that you are not alone in your experience. Here are some common thoughts and feelings from our community (and ourselves) you might relate to:
I kind of like this.
No commute. More quality time with family. Working from home full time. Simple living. It makes sense that you like parts of this change. Soak in any positives you can to help get through this. Engage in self-care so you’re able to be present with your family, or take a moment to be present with little things you used to rush past during your stressful commute.
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I feel guilty about liking it.
It also makes sense that you notice your privilege about enjoying aspects of staying home. Others definitely have it worse. You might also feel guilty about the struggles you’re having for the same reason. Something we’ve been pointing out to you, though, is your life is undoubtedly more difficult now than it was before, which is stressful. It’s okay to have complex feelings right now – and any time (but you knew therapists would say that)
I’m super anxious.
Of course you are. About getting sick. About your loved ones. The economy. The news. Food. Keeping the kids busy. And about the many changes you are experiencing. We could go on, and so could you. The DSM-V (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Health Diagnoses) requires 6 months of anxiety symptoms, but some of them may sound familiar right now: difficulty controlling worry, feeling on edge, irritability, sleep disturbances. Some of your anxiety might be new, but it might also tie back to older issues as well. Send yourself some compassion, and consider making this a time to do some deeper emotional work.
I’m feeling hopeless about the future.
We don’t know how long this will go on, other than a long time. A symptom of depression is not looking forward to the future. Well, when we all have our picture of the future ripped out from under us, it makes sense that we feel a little depressed. We think that just about everyone might relate to some of the symptoms of depression right now: depressed mood most of the day, loss of interest in activities (especially when you have so few options, right?), significant weight change, loss of energy every day. As The New York Times points out, there is research showing that many aspects of social isolation lead to loneliness and depression. What’s our therapeutic advice about this one? You guessed it: self-care. Starting with therapy, of course :) It’s not just coming from us though – even The Washington Post suggests that therapy could ease your coronavirus stress.
We are finding ourselves doing some very meaningful work with you as these feelings have been coming up. As a result, we have been able to witness some relief and growth.
Your Reaction to “The New Normal”: Connecting Virtually
We are privileged to be trusted with your emotional wellbeing right now, so we want to share what we’ve been learning about the human condition during this time, beginning with the virtual connection.
Most of our human “contact” now happens virtually. By now, you’ve heard our kids and dogs, and we’ve witnessed your family members seeking your attention, including Whiskers stealthily gliding by the camera. We’ve been hearing that people are both surviving on and exhausted by virtual interaction. It seems the key to preventing ‘virtual burnout’ might be similar to your in-person interactions: when you’re able, choose the connections which are fulfilling rather than draining. We’ve also heard that sometimes you just need a break from video calls. You can always empathically shout at your neighbor from 6 feet away instead.
We are honored to find that therapy is one of the fulfilling types of virtual interactions. We’ve been thinking carefully about how to keep it this way for you, such as incorporating mindfulness, being flexible, and taking care of ourselves so we are present for you. Many clients have shared that it is more natural than expected. We are missing being in the room with you, but are so grateful for the ability to virtually connect with you.
At this point, most of us are searching for humor to get us through this situation (one of our favorite coping mechanisms). Here are Hamilton cast members performing “The Zoom Where It Happened.”