Weathering the new normal

For over a month now, in unrelenting stormy seas, we’ve been confined to our cabins patiently waiting for a glimmer of safe harbour—anything resembling life before the pandemic.

Despite pervasive uncertainty that looms over our psyche like a mad hangover that won’t go away, many of us remain hopeful that a path to recovery is eventually coming. How soon? Hard to tell.

In the meantime, we fill our days of confinement working from home (for those of us fortunate enough with this option), disinfecting and staying healthy, finding creative (though often exhaustible) ways to keep entertained indoors, connecting virtually with others—in effect, living our day-to-day within our own bubbles.

Not in Kansas anymore
What happens if public health restrictions continue for months, even years! What if one of the more feasible paths to recovery involves revolutionary changes in the way we live and work? Changes so transformative they could shock and freak us out while pining for ‘the way things used to be’.

We all have our own way of dealing (or not) with crisis. And if our brains short-circuit because we weren’t prepared to accept a mind-altering view of the new normal, then maybe we should start paying more attention.

I propose reflecting on five key themes to help prepare yourself for a long-term scenario. 

Health priority
None of what we are now, what we live for, would be relevant if we were not in good health. At this stage of the global pandemic, the nature of this deadly virus remains largely a mystery. And because securing a vaccine or treatment that works could take a while, we should naturally expect governments and health authorities to impose preventative measures to effectively stem viral spread. 

Now is the time to really focus on how well we treat our bodies and mental health. Are we taking advantage of exploring healthier ways to improve our diet, stay physically active, get enough rest/sleep and seek help if in a bad state?

Mental adaptability
How open you are to change or even the IDEA of change may well be the psychological equation you need to figure out. Your mettle will certainly be tested by how well your mind can adapt to rapid change. And we’re not talking aspirational, cosmetic adjustments to our way of life. Think of complete transformations in how we fundamentally interact with each other or conduct business or how we enjoy our free time, even travel in a way that fully mitigates future repeats of our current predicament.

Are you prepared to pivot and adjust your worldview to live comfortably in a society where caution and limitation overrules care-free and unbound? 

Temporal structure
No doubt many of us have already experienced a constant, haze-like feeling of timelessness as our self-isolation ensues. The first week of lockdown sure felt to me like limbo. I kept losing track of time with weekdays seamlessly rolling over to weekends. And while our waking hours may find us comfortably wrapped in sweatpants, forcing ourselves to up our video-conferencing game, we really notice just how crucial it is to have structure in our lives.

Time is a universal measure that gives us predictable reference to how we live our days. Developing daily routines is indeed helpful, but we need to go beyond established routines to sensibly plan way ahead.

Being attentive to ongoing developments and assessing their long-term implications are essential. But it requires us to be more than just effective planners—we need to be visionaries, able to visualize realistic alternatives to our various modes of living well beyond the immediate future. And yes, I believe virtual interactions and environments are among the key alternative infrastructures we must continue to explore and finesse.

Self-discipline
You’d think this is self-evident. But after seeing such disparate and reckless reactions to public health guidance and enforcement, it is clear that many are challenged by imposed limits and restrictions. The absence of self-discipline leads to thoughtless actions that imperil others.

I’m not just talking about some people’s inability to respect physical distance. Think of how you’ve arrived at your own resolve. The very thing that defines your ability to know and control who you are. Was there a simple formula to follow? Were you spoon-fed with a strong dose of perseverance and self-sacrifice to be the enduring person that you are now? Right??

Critical thinking
I’d like to imagine that there may only be a handful of misinformed people in the world. That the carefully contrived and dangerous narrative running counter to science-based facts affect only a slim margin of the globe.

But I simply can’t convince myself that online misinformation is a negligible glitch that will eventually correct itself. Uh-uh. The fake news rhetoric is so easily embedded into people’s predisposed social conditioning and mindsets. And the glaring lack of will (let alone self-awareness) to question, examine, verify online information is much like blissfully accepting the dire consequences of a lie claiming a swift ‘return to normal’. 

I often think of Darwin’s theory of evolution when faced with a societal quandary related to nature’s wrath. Survival of the fittest ring any bells?

Time is running out and no one is so far immune.

During this profoundly disruptive and unsettling moment in our lifetime, despite a multitude of daily, global initiatives to ‘reclaim our previous lives’ it wouldn’t be surprising if all our efforts were eventually distilled into two stark choices: adapt or perish. 

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