There’s been a lot of writing about Pandemic/Coronavirus fatigue. The idea that we are becoming less cautious as our brains start to put the brakes on the alarms we had in the initial phases of the pandemic. Many of these articles discuss how to get over it and why it’s important. I have seen far less information on the how we do this in a sustainable way to support our brain as it will continue to adapt to our new introductions over time. After all, it’s likely the way we engage with one another is going to change society-wide over the long run. Being prepared and using this opportunity to shape what that looks like for us might be just the thing to help us have greater control over our future.
The human brain is evolved to adapt to new circumstances and we don’t notice it! It makes us bad at forecasting how we will feel about something and how quickly we will return to our baseline. This is why we get frustrated by the continued restrictions or new practices we are required to adopt to mitigate the pandemic and why so many have started going back out, limiting mask use, etc. It’s why we want to return to work and school and are becoming frustrated that it isn’t happening.
Cognitive adaptation is one way we learn; we take in new information and add it to our repository and then continue to move on. But in a crisis situation, it can become detrimental as the situation continues and our brain defaults to a “normal” instead of remaining in a heightened state of awareness. Remaining aware to all the threats can however be exhausting, especially as it limits our ability to be social. So, today what I want to discuss is how we adapt to a new situation so that our default is the new “normal” instead of a tiring heightened sense of awareness. We have talked about how your mind can be hacked to develop new habits and I’ve been discussing Recovery Rituals in my workshops (some upcoming if you are interested!).
A. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS: We talk a lot about managing expectations here at Nextpat. In fact, our first reorientation class is about what did you expect, what’s matched, and what that might mean going forward. In our Overcoming Evacuation Blues article we talk about it as well. So, what does it mean in the pandemic/crisis situation?
1. Know that the crisis is likely to go on for longer than you anticipate. If this is going to be a new normal and not temporary, how would you approach it? What would you put into place now instead of waiting?
2. Similarly, if you know that you may have to live in this way for a while are there things your family needs to do now instead of waiting out? Maybe that means moving to a different space, setting up a space for homework that is more permanent, or budgeting differently.
3. Because you may have to make this work for the long-haul determine what your priorities are going to look like and where you may have decision points. For example, if I expect this to go on for two years, what plans might I make for moving, online schooling, my budget. When do I need to make decisions if I’m trying a course of action, after 3 weeks or 3 months?
4. How do you listen to your body and mind when it tells you that you need rest or are tired of the situation? Do you tamp it down and keep on charging, reset and recharge, or ignore and continue to sprint because it’ll only be temporary? Try treating yourself with the same kindness you do others and recognize that the signals your body and mind are sending you may be indicators that this is going on longer than it had reserves for. Be kind!
B. TALK ABOUT IT: As you know, I rarely advocate this as more often than not, talking about an issue usually results in us rehashing it without further action. However, recognizing that you aren’t alone and giving voice to what you are feeling can be powerfully cathartic. It can also help you recognize what you’re feeling, how that is manifesting, and where you might want to shift. Talking about it can also help you find ways to navigate your new situation or transition. You can do this with a therapist, a coach, or through a hotline as we note below.
C. REFRAME IT: Reframing is about shifting your perspective to unlock a new approach or mindset. When discussing your situation with someone you may find yourself doing this automatically because it sounds too negative to you or because you see opportunities you didn’t before. Reframing can also be done with a therapist or coach who might help shift your perspective to open up new lines of resources or opportunities. For the pandemic, you’ve probably seen some of the questions that encourage reframing: “What have you appreciated about this time that you hope to take forward?” “What new activity or old hobby have you picked up that you didn’t have time for before?” “What story do you want to tell your grandchildren about this time?” All of these questions ask you to think about the pandemic not from the here and now in the
moment, but from either a different vantage within the moment or a different moment all together to provide an alternative perspective on the situation.
A note on reframing: this is not always about simple optimism but rather an exercise or skill to help view reality with all its possibilities. It helps us break a narrative loop and confirmation bias to include alternative perspectives.
D. CREATE RECOVERY RITUALS AND LIVE IN THE MOMENT: We have already extensively covered recovery rituals in this post. We’ve also extensively covered mindfulness ideas through our #mindfulnessbites series. But it can’t be said enough. Reminding your body and mind in this moment that it’s alive and breathing can settle it into a place to problem solve a future problem. If you want more dedicated support to developing your own recovery rituals, join us for one of three workshops in September on this topic.
Meditation can be helpful for recognizing the moment. So can savoring a moment, either through sharing it or by reflecting on it as you live it. Creating space to be present for a few moment through yoga, journaling, meditation, cooking, art, or whatever allows you to be present can help spread that into the rest of your life.
1. You could also consider using a manmade anchor through something like the Pomodoro timer or an alarm that sets aside dedicated time to step away from another task and focus on being for even just a minute.
2. A ritual might already exist in your day – it might be as simple as making dinner, but one that you are usually doing distracted. Using that time to reflect on what you are doing instead of the what needs to be done or happened can help break the day into more manageable chunks
If you want ideas of mindfulness practices, please check out Nextpat’s Youtube Channel, called Thriving Expats. We’ll be talking about mindfulness techniques for those on the go, short bites you can add to your daily life. Please share widely and if you subscribe it’ll help us change the URL!
If you are looking to explore alternative ways to cope and want a safe space to develop that insight as well as an accountability partner, please reach out to schedule your free discovery call for coaching. Finally, if you prefer a more workshop style method, register for our September Recovery Rituals workshops.
Lastly, if you or someone you know is in danger of hurting themselves or others, please reach out for professional care. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs support, please see the National Alliance on Mental Health resources or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).