Narrating the new normal

As we begin to have restrictions eased throughout Singapore and the Circuit Breaker slowly winds down, we all are waiting anxiously for our lives to return to normal.  Yet all around, we hear the phrase, “the new normal.”  As I have been contemplating my own integration back into a regular routine that allows me to leave my home, I wonder about stepping into the new normal and how that can be done so with intention.  

What can we take from our recent experiences that will allow for a more purposeful, intentional life?  What can we take from our collective contraction?  What can we leave behind as we move forward into a new expansion? How do we continue to evolve so that a more positive and heartfelt experience can emerge from this global blow to humanity?

In order to really feel as though we have grown and developed from our experience during this pandemic, it seems essential to build a new narrative for ourselves; one that incorporates and honors our individual experiences during this time, one that recognizes the benefit in our personal and collective experiences, one that allows us to continue to engage in those things that provided us benefit and have kept us going through this time of crisis.

While many people have had experiences of isolation, anxiety, sadness, anger or boredom during the circuit breaker, it is important to look at how those emotions may be seen as having molded or shaped us for the better.  What positive can we gain from experiencing these negative emotions?  In experiencing the positive side of emotional challenges we need to feel them, not resist them.  Undesirable emotions have an evolutionary aspect as well as an ability to provide insights and thus they do have something to teach us.   One way in which to begin to shift our perspective on our negative emotional states is to write a gratitude letter to that emotion for what it has provided us, if the feeling is isolation, perhaps it has given you a greater ability to listen to internal thoughts, perhaps it has given you a new appreciation for your family, maybe being isolated has taught you a new skill.  In any case, being able to examine and be with our challenges can be a great tool to assist us in creating a narrative of our time that holds value.  

Another aspect of taking value and creating a story that holds richness is how we take new positive experiences with us into the new normal. During this circuit breaker, some of us have had increased time with family, more time to read and incorporate creativity into our lives through painting, writing, learning a new skill or hobby. Or we have been able to increase our physical health with at home workouts.  Once we begin to go back out into the world, ensuring time to continue these activities can be essential to build a new narrative of living life with intention.   Plan your week and “pay” yourself first.  If you have enjoyed game night with your family, put that in the calendar, block time for your workouts, even time to read or paint should be included in your schedule; whatever refuels us needs import. These activities have kept us sane, and grounded when things felt unknown and because of the value, keeping these pastimes is a way to ensure that our story is grounded in an appreciation for how this global pause has stretched us.  

In all of the things that we have gone through collectively, it is important to remember that our journey is not an isolated one, our story has a cast of characters that include our friends, family as well as all of those individuals affected by this pandemic (and we have all been affected).  With that in mind, the recreation of our narrative should include honoring and finding appreciation for those people in our life. Include them, use them to process those challenging emotions, include them as part of your “payment” to yourself.  The way to move forward and ensure that our new narrative is intentional and lasting is to have support in our new normal to support others in theirs.

Written by: 
Kimberly Fisel
Marriage and Family Therapist

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