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As We Work Towards a New Normal, We're Suffering the Uncertainty of the In-between

You’ve probably heard the term “the new normal” in regards to what we’ve been experiencing during the past 16 months in the pandemic.

You might find a part of yourself cringing at that statement, wishing that that wasn’t the case, or maybe you have a part of yourself embracing this “new norm.”

Neither one is right or wrong, it’s just how you feel, and both parts need to be heard and respected. But the present moment is definitely not the old normal that we were used to before the pandemic and it’s also not the new normal, but perhaps it’s something in-between, an interesting space between the old and the new.

This in-between space may feel uncomfortable and awkward due to not feeling completely stable or secure in knowing what is going on. It may increase anxiety, depression, or stress due to not knowing what is acceptable behavior in social situations and professional settings. This period of not knowing can be scary, and it can also be an opportunity for building resilience and personal growth.

Our ability as humans to adapt and change according to our environment is pretty remarkable. Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of our experience. This ability is what keeps us resilient to changes that occur in our environment that are out of our control. For some individuals, they can get stuck in the ‘way things were’ mentality and resist change, therefore running the risk of suffering both mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure and rewire itself when it recognizes the need for adaption, and you can argue that we are in the thick of that adaption now. So how do you invite your brain’s natural ability to adapt and build resilience to the changes happening around us? Below are some ideas of what to invite into your daily practice to build resilience.

How to find and address resistant parts of you that don’t want to adapt to changes around your environment:

1. Notice if there are parts of you that are resistant to change. Validate these parts, welcome them, and ask them what they are afraid would happen if they softened and invited the possibility of change 2. Listen to and address these fears that are expressed. Ask the parts that are afraid what is needed in order for them to feel more trust and support 3. Send these parts lots of compassion and understanding!

How to invite resilience during the in-between. (Information below adapted from Bessel van der Kolk, MD).

1. Predictability: Think about what it is you are looking forward to today. Create a schedule and routines that are daily and/or weekly 2. Mobility: Move your body regularly to release stress hormones (ex. Walk, stretch, run, jump, shake, chair yoga) 3. Connection: Interact with others that you feel safe with and enjoy via in-person or video 4. Mindfulness: Practice being aware with the nonjudgment of your body, mind, and emotions. Can be helpful to name what is going on within you (ex. I am feeling anxious). Send respect to the part of you that is anxious. Combine mindfulness with self-compassion and loving-kindness 5. Sense of Time: Remember that everything is temporary. Every moment is different from the next 6. Safety: Create a private space for yourself in your home or outside in nature where you can be by yourself. Bring safe physical touch with self or others. Can invite touch with a partner, pet, blanket, etc. 7. Sense of Purpose: Notice your sense of purpose when life events shift our ‘norm’. Give yourself something to accomplish each day. Invite gratitude of this accomplishment every day.

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