This new world already looks different than the one I left behind.
Come June, I may need to decline invitations, wear a mask and forgo my favorite vacation spots.
And I’m not the only one. More than a third of Americans are considered high-risk, who are facing difficult decisions and continued isolation this summer.
After 70 days of quarantine, we’ve emerged from our homes to discover the world has changed. We falsely assumed reopening meant returning to life as we know it. But normal is not something we’ll be returning to anytime soon.
Like a thick fog, the reality of this pandemic is rolling in. We are struggling to move forward. We are feeling the immense scope of this virus and its adverse effects. Many are being triggered by the new normal. We may find ourselves denying reality or feeling disillusioned by it.
It’s important to take a thermal reading of your emotional temperature during this time. As society reopens, each of us will react differently depending on our own emotions, needs and experiences.
The emotion we are seeing and feeling is common in stages of disaster and trauma. After collectively experiencing mass panic, imminent danger, heroism, hostility and tragedy, a natural period of disillusionment will follow.
When reality differs from your expectations, disappointment sets in. Ongoing hardship, uncontrollable circumstances and the stress of daily living can undermine your optimism and resolve. It can breed anger and hostility. Current events can be especially triggering. Without adequate support, deep discouragement and feeling helpless can easily spiral you into depression or despair.
How to Cope
Part of taking care of yourself during this stage of the pandemic means being aware of how the new normal is affecting you. Are you resisting change or feeling crushed by reality?
When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, the reality of my situation was so disappointing and devastating that I had great difficulty adjusting to the change. I didn’t want to accept it. I spent years trying to salvage my “old” life and live as though nothing had happened. But by attempting to stay the same, I made myself worse. Refusing to accept my new normal actually ended up putting me in harm’s way. I had to eventually accept that life would look different and that my expectations and demands were no longer in line with reality.
My normal had changed and I needed to change with it.
As you navigate this new season, keep these five truths in mind:
Life will look different.
A global pandemic means that life is going to look different for a period of time. And that’s okay. You can learn to adapt and change with your circumstances by accepting the reality of the situation and focusing on what you can control. Avoiding or denying reality will only delay your ability to deal with it.
Life is full of many troubles.
Distress, discouragement and hardship are normal, recurring experiences (John 16:33). It’s important to be mentally prepared, acknowledge your uncomfortable emotions and learn how to tolerate them. Our western society does not do this well. Our culture trains us to pursue happiness and despise suffering. Sadly, this has made us weak in assets like perseverance and enduring hardship. It’s important to recognize that you do not have to be happy to have a good life. Instead of distracting yourself from discomfort, learn healthy ways to cope with it.
Life will include loss.
This pandemic is no exception. There have been many losses in the last two months: livelihoods, loved ones, routines, plans, expectations, security, our sense of normal. Grief can manifest itself in forms of anger, fear and depression. Not acknowledging or grieving the loss you have experienced can have detrimental effects on your psychological and physical health.
Life can cause deep discouragement.
If you’ve been feeling discouraged lately, you are not alone. I have too. Knowing we could experience more of the same for the next three seasons can easily make me depressed.
If you’re feeling down these days, don’t be too hard on yourself. Anxiety, grief and depression are the normal human response to pain and suffering.
Many people of faith have also struggled. Job suffered overwhelming losses. Jonah’s disappointment and bitterness was so great he despised his own life (Jonah 4:8). Elijah felt so useless, afraid and depressed (1 Kings 19:3-4). The Apostle Paul battled numerous afflictions and hardships that nearly killed him (2 Cor 6:4-10). Even Jesus suffered great distress and physical anguish (Luke 22:44).
Many times over, the psalmist described his dealings with despair. David knew what it was like to experience fear, betrayal, grief, failure, danger and sickness. But when he sank into the pit of despair, he also knew how to pull himself out.
Deep discouragement turns into despair when we lose faith in a hopeful, meaningful future.
The power of despair is that it robs you of hope. It is a prison of discouragement and helplessness, keeping you convinced that your situation will never change or improve. If “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov 13:12) then hope is the key to making it well again.
Life with God is always a hope-filled one.
When doom and gloom linger on the horizon, remember where your hope lies. Life is good because God is in it. His presence and power at work in this broken world is what makes the future a hopeful one. The hope of seeing God’s goodness at work in this life is what kept the psalmist from utter despair (Ps 27:13).
God takes it upon Himself to heal the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18). When you are discouraged, God’s presence is near (Phil 4:5). When you grieve, he keeps record of your tears and will one day wipe them away for good (Ps 56:8, Rev 21:4) When you are depressed, God is the one who comforts and encourages you (2 Cor 1:3-4, 7:6). Jesus both sustains and gives rest to the weary soul (Matt 11:28). He is both with you in the valley of shadows and stands ready to help when you cry out to Him (Ps 61:2).
We can face a troubling reality because God is with us and promises a hope-filled future (Jer 29:11). Though recurring adversity is part of living in this broken world, God’s rescuing power keeps His people from being crushed, destroyed, abandoned or in complete despair (2 Cor 4:8-9). This is why we can still have courage and hope in difficult times.
As the world moves forward, remember to keep perspective and guard yourself against despair:
- Accept that life will be different. Adjust your expectations and create a new way of living that is beneficial.
- Realize that life will have many troubles. Learn how to engage with your uncomfortable emotions.
- Life will include loss. Acknowledge and grieve your losses. Reach out to others for support.
- Resist despair by remembering where your hope lies. Recall to mind who God is and all He has promised.
- Depend on God for comfort, help and hope during these difficult times.
This world will look different than the one we left behind. May we change rather than stay the same. May we allow this new normal to make us better and not bitter. May we cling to hope, knowing the future is still good. And may we remember God and all He has promised.
If you are experiencing depression or overwhelming emotions that do not improve, please seek help by finding a therapist near you or by calling the crisis hotline toll-free at 800-799-7233 (SAFE).
This post is part of a 10-part series on how to successfully navigate your emotions during quarantine. Check out the other emotions in this series below: