Adjusting to the New COVID Normal

We’re now roughly six months into the global COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us never expected that it would reach this point, nor that we could make it this far without serious damage to our mental health—and yet, here we are.
For some of us, it feels positively normal by now. Many have grown accustomed to wearing masks everywhere, staying six feet apart, and being unable to see friends and loved ones. Others are struggling to adjust to this new COVID normal. It can feel lonely, hollow, and downright boring. For the elderly and other vulnerable populations, this may be a time of difficult isolation.
Whether you’ve become numb to the situation or are struggling to cope, one thing is certain: We could all use a little bit of extra light in our lives right now. We would all be better off if we knew how to not only survive, but thrive throughout this international health crisis. And with experts warning that it will likely be a long time before we return to a pre-COVID normal, we might as well make peace with this new reality.
Start from Within
Many psychological studies have determined that only 10 percent of our happiness stems from external events, with the remaining 90 percent being a mix of genetics and intentional activities (meaning what you do to stay happy, whether that’s changing the way you process the world or engaging in activities that uplift you). These statistics are reassuring during a time when we have so little control over the external events happening around us. They remind us that while our happiness is not 100 percent within our control, we can absolutely affect it through our ways of thinking and living.
Many people are finding comfort in their spiritual and religious practice during the pandemic. With more free time to pray, meditate, read, and reflect, it’s a great time to reinvigorate your faith. The Bible speaks at length about seeking God’s love in times of hardship. For example, James 1:2-3 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Psalm 16:11 teaches us that we can find all the happiness we need in God: “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Embrace Learning
We’re all learning a lot right now. We’re learning what it feels like to be alone with ourselves, what is truly important to us, and how much we miss the people in our lives when we can’t spend time with them. Now is the time to reevaluate our priorities and renew our gratitude for others.
In pre-COVID times, many of us were so busy balancing work, school, and responsibilities that we lost sight of the important things in life—things like family, friendship, love, and quality time. Now that we can’t meet an old friend for drinks or invite the parents over for Sunday dinner, we realize just how much those small things really mean to us.
This doesn’t have to be a tragedy. In fact, it is a valuable lesson. We’ve had the chance to get back in touch with the things we value most of all, and we will not soon take them for granted. Once it’s safe to return to “normal” life, we will see the small things that we so long took for granted in a whole new light.
Focus on What You Can Control
We can do our part to end this pandemic by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, as well as encouraging others to do the same, but we ultimately can’t control what happens with COVID-19. We have no say in whether a potential vaccine proves effective or when that may happen. These are all factors outside of our control, which means worrying about them is fruitless.
But there are also a lot of things we can control. We can be safe and responsible to ease our fears of catching the disease; we can visit with loved ones virtually; we can reconnect with nature by spending more time outdoors. When you focus on these things rather than what is out of your control, you regain a sense of autonomy and control over your own destiny. It’s hard to feel happy and fulfilled with life right now, but it’s far from impossible. ­­With the right mindset and support from others (including a professional if you need one), you can thrive in times of uncertainty.