Where to Begin: Balancing the New Normal
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic created a wedge in our routines and schedules. In many ways, we found ourselves lost and confused like a lost child in a carnival. We had to keep ourselves tucked away safely in our homes to protect us from any social gatherings to prevent the spread of this unknown virus. We rewired our brains with work, children, school, free time, and home enmeshed into one place. At times, it seems like we may not feel safe and feel more vulnerable than we could imagine. It did not make it feel safe for us, in fact, it made us more vulnerable than we imagine. From the start of the pandemic, we had to adapt to a new life by attending school and working from home remotely. It is never easy to make changes in your life especially when we are forced to do something we are uncomfortable with. Our lives are set by the daily routines that we become comfortable with the predictability of the life’s framework. We believed that the pandemic would be resolved within a few months, but here we are a year and four months passed. With the minimum of social connections we have, the day ins and outs in our environment whether work, school, or in the comfort of our own homes.
After a tumultuous year, we are undergoing another transition. No more isolation. We can come out of our shells to see the world and what it has become. Recently, Netflix released a documentary which became an Oscar-winning feature, My Octopus Teacher. This documentary is an eye-opener and a bit of comfort to the soul. I realized that we negate how tough life is and our journey is constantly adapting to reality. It discusses the journey of a burned-out filmmaker and how he regains purpose and meaning through developing his relationship with an octopus.
The idea we need to understand is the purpose of reintegrating back to normalcy. You might ask, “What does going back to normal even look like?” As a society, we were not prepared on how to react and live our life, pre-COVID and post-COVID, so we are learning to adapt to what works and does not. Some of us go through life with our eyes closed, blindfolded, or forced wide open, it is difficult for us to understand what it means to live a life worth living. Does it mean when the pandemic is over, we forget all the things we learned when we were stuck inside? Not necessarily. We need to evolve and maintain the behaviors we integrated into our lives to become resilient.
In the documentary, the diver shares his insights and understanding of an octopus. The diver shares the strengths and weaknesses that this sea creature possesses. Following the octopus for a year, through the good and the bad times, shows its resilience develops over time. The octopus’ experiments, learns, and refines its skills.
All human beings have innate and adaptive behaviors. We have a constant internal battle with ourselves where we learn to accept the worst part of ourselves and try our best to change our negative thoughts. Our journey is not linear because life can take us to the most unexpected experiences. The octopus in the documentary exhibits many traits, but one is exemplary – how it uses its body to sense the world. In contrast, we can get wrapped up in our hectic and chaotic lives. We may often hyper focus on our minds that we may possibly forget to address the needs of the rest of our body. Sometimes we are so busy with our lives; thinking about when our next meal is to when we’ll get our next paycheck. There are simply too many things we can worry about. We do not realize the impact each worrisome, sad, or negative thought has on our well-being until it is too late.
On a busy day, there is one effortless thing you can do is to be present in the moment. How can we focus on the present? It can be as simple as stopping and taking a deep breath. The saying, “Stop and smell the roses” is an act of appreciation and recognizing the positive or goodness in our lives. Living in the present is accepting reality, taking the time to appreciate experiences, allowing the daily moments that bring us peace, and understanding where sensations and surroundings around you come from. You can take a long sip of your favorite beverage. You can acknowledge all your senses and what it gives to have full awareness to experience the sensations in how our body pulsates.
You can make full sense of the world when you are able to be present in the moment. Busy notifications and overwhelming thoughts will no longer distract you. You are no longer distracted by the busy notifications or engulfed thoughts. You are not thinking strictly about surviving, traveling from one task to the next, or being trapped in the constant need for control.
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For more exercises by Joanna Kwan, LPCC, learn to be in the present moment.
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