How to Keep A Sense of Normalcy Right Now

Woman at computer

Routines are key

On the latest episode of Next Question, I was joined by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb — you might know her from The Atlantic’s Dear Therapist column. She shared some vital tips for managing our anxiety during these uncertain times, and armed us with tools to maintain some normalcy. Here, we’ve adapted some of the advice that Lori shared with us — read on, but be sure to listen to the full episode.

It’s important to try to develop routines right now.

When something extraordinary happens, like what the world is experiencing right now, we long for the ordinary. We want our routines back. We want all those things that we used to complain about — the boring, the mundane, and the certain. We long for the time when we weren’t in a heightened state.

Even though something very scary and unknown is happening right now, there are ways we can tether ourselves back to the ordinary. For so many of us, our routines have been disrupted, and that feeling of abnormality can be overwhelming. So an easy way to regain some control, and to help things feel a bit more normal again, is to stick to a routine.

So, what are some helpful things to do?

Many of us are having remote meetings right now — whether it’s for work, or for school. Before you log in, get up and get dressed as you would normally, especially if you’re using a video platform where people will see you. Even if you don’t have any meetings, make sure that you’re following a daily routine as you usually would. Wake up and shower, put on clothes, eat your meals at regular times, and go outside and exercise.

Maybe you can’t go to the gym, but you can get some fresh air while socially distancing. So even though you’re stuck at home, you have some sort of semblance of a routine, and a plan. Create a schedule, and stick to it. And at the end of each day, you can plan your schedule for the next day. That will give you a sense of something concrete that you can control.

Luckily, we can virtually adapt some of our favorite activities.

This helps restore that sense of normalcy If you have dinner with your parents every Thursday night, you could have a virtual dinner together. If you go to the movies with your friends every Friday, you could watch a movie together virtually. The internet can be our friend right now. A lot of people who routinely attend exercise classes have started exercising together virtually, and there are plenty of ways to find these classes online. And of course, just moving your body helps so much with anxiety.

But don’t be hard on yourself — these are difficult times, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

We have to acknowledge that humans don’t do well with uncertainty. And so while this is a very overwhelming time, it is also a good opportunity for us to build up some resilience around uncertainty. Instead of trying to figure out or speculate about the future, it’s ok to just say, “we don’t know what’s going to happen.” Try to get comfortable with the unknown, and control what you can.

Try to look on the bright side.

We all have a choice here — we can either approach this time as though we’re in prison, or we can look at it as a gift. People always say, “I don’t have time for that. There’s not enough time.” For so many of us, that’s our mantra in life today.

Right now, we finally have time. We’ve been given the gift of slowing down. Think about all those things you used to say you didn’t have time for, and do them. Reconnect with someone that you’ve fallen out of touch with. Take the time to cook that meal we’ve always wanted to cook, or read that article or book we’ve always wanted to read. Take the time to meditate. FaceTime with someone you love, and ask how they’re doing, and take the time to actually listen to what they say.

Lastly: Know you’re not alone.

We are all struggling right now, because nobody is immune from this. Find ways to support each other.

This interview has been edited and condensed from the Next Question podcast by producer Emily Pinto.

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