New Normal, Now Normal, Next Normal. Build Resilience and Create Your Next.
There is so much talk about NORMAL – new normal, now normal, next normal. What is normal anyway? An article in the Atlantic says, “…research suggests that our sense of what’s normal reflects not only our belief about what’s average, but also our sense of what’s ideal.” There is no absolute normal. It is defined by our individual beliefs. Think about that. When we remember that we control our beliefs, we can control what is normal for us and build resilience!
Before we talk about the process of managing change and uncertainty, we need to agree to remove the word “normal,” and instead consider new, now, and next. I live in Minnesota. We talk about the weather in almost every conversation. It’s extreme – in the winter, and it often surprises us. A blizzard on Halloween? That’s not normal, but it has happened. In fact, on Halloween in 1991, we got 28 inches over 3 days! The average temperature in January in Minnesota is 22°F, but in 2012 it was 52°F. I don’t look at the forecast anymore because it is wrong so often. I just look outside and dress accordingly. It’s hard to plan accurately for the weather, so I often have more than one option just in case.
Uncertainty and unexpected change are a usual part of life. We have an incredible opportunity to teach our kids how to effectively manage uncertainty and change, because as the saying goes, “Change is the only constant.” So, the sooner they learn how to respond effectively, the more they can build and practice resilience when faced with change and uncertainty.
I love change; however, I prefer the change that I choose, not change that is done to me without my consent. When that happens, give me about 24 hours to feel like a victim, blame people and imagine all the things that will go wrong, and then I start to focus on how I will make sure whatever is changing works for me. My go-to technique is what I call, “Freeze Frame, Reframe.”
Freeze Frame and Reframe as a Resilience Technique
Freeze Frame involves pausing to identify what is NEW and exploring it with curiosity and then focusing your energy on what is NOW.
Reframing is about shifting your thinking from all the things that are wrong with NEW and NOW to what’s possible and what good can come from the NEW and NOW so we can create our NEXT and live with a strong sense of resilience.
Identify What’s NEW and Explore it with Curiosity
When we ask ourselves what’s new with curiosity vs. judgment, we diminish the belief that what we had before was normal, the norm, something we could count on. Instead we can open our minds to explore with curiosity what is happening that is new, not assigning labels of good or bad. Take a moment to imagine what’s possible in this new reality and what good could come out of it.
Focus Your Energy on What’s NOW
Focusing on now or on the present, is an important way to practice mindfulness and find peace with your “now.” When we’re focused on the past or future, we don’t enjoy the present.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” Elanor Roosevelt
How do you focus on your NOW?
- The first step is to breathe. Yes, I know you breathe regularly all day, every day. To be fully present in the current moment, you focus on your breath, noticing the air coming in through your nose and then out again.
- Next, notice your thoughts. They are typically past thoughts, pulling us back to what we know and was familiar, or future thoughts pulling us forward often to what we’re worried about. Notice and acknowledge your thoughts and then release them, without judgment. 2 ways you can do this (and teach your kids to do this):
- Blow up an imaginary balloon, put your thoughts into it and release it into the sky.
- Sit by an imaginary river, put your thoughts on a leaf that is floating in the water and watch it flow away from you.
- Finally, acknowledge your current reality.
- Identify everything you are grateful for first.
- Then identify those things you don’t like and are worried about.
- Determine what you can control and influence. What can you do to change these things?
- Identify the things about your NOW you can’t control. Don’t give them energy. Let them go (see step 2 above).
Look Forward with Resilience to What’s NEXT
The future is uncertain. Especially with respect to things like COVID, school, our employment. Again, we need to focus on what we can do to create a future that works for us. This is where our reframing comes in. When it became clear social distancing was going to be our NEW and NOW for an undetermined amount of time, I quickly went to a negative place, focused on what I was losing. When I noticed my negative thinking, I reframed and shifted toward how I might use this new reality and my strong Zoom skills to socialize virtually with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time because of the distance between us. Of course, I could have connected with these friends virtually with video any time, but it took a pandemic for me to consider virtual happy hours. While I look forward to regular in person socializing, I will continue my virtual happy hours with distant friends. Time with them that will create memories we’ll always cherish. So how do we build resilience and create our new next?
5 Steps to Creating Your Next
- Define what you want your NEXT to be.
- Ask yourself, “What are the possibilities and what good can come out of this?”
- Review what you can control.
- Ask yourself, “What is the next best thing I can do?”
- Ask yourself, “What do I need (from myself and others) to be successful?”
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln
Guiding Your Kids to NEXT
If you think you feel like you don’t have control of what’s happening, imagine how your kids are feeling.
With your kids, be sure to make time regularly for conversation with them about how they’re feeling about the change and uncertainty. Use Connection Zoo® cards and Feelings Chart to help them talk about and manage their feelings. Our Connection Zoo® Snail card represents avoidance. It’s important to recognize when your kids (or you) are avoiding feelings that are uncomfortable. That is exactly the time to notice and attend to those feelings.
5 Powerful Questions to Ask:
- How are you feeling?
- What worries do you have?
- How are you doing with the changes to your routine?
- What changes have been the hardest for you?
- What is one (or more) thing you like about the changes?
3 Powerful Responses:
- Thank you for sharing that with me.
- Can you tell me more about that?
- It sounds like you’re (fill in a feeling word).
Let’s look forward to the NEXT we can create together! Then we can SHELL-EBRATE what we’ve created and proclaim, “SNAILED IT!” (See what I did there? shell…snail 😊)
Feel Well, Be Well, Do Well,
Co-Founder, ConnectHuman, maker of Connection Zoo