Managing Your ‘Interim’ Normal
by Pauline Krutilla, MS, CEAP
Let’s be real. Life today isn’t the “new” normal, nor should it be. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic. More changes and readjustments are heading this way. Our current situation should be considered an “interim” or “temporary” normal. We remain in a state of transition and uncertainty. We’ve learned we can’t control world events or future disruptions, but we can control how we respond to the ever-changing challenges we may face. This interim period can be a time for a much-needed pause — a reset, if you will — as we find new ways to survive and hopefully thrive during a difficult period.
Life as we knew it: gone (but not forgotten)
Life wasn’t perfect, but we may look back on our “old” life using an idealized or sentimental frame of reference. It’s easy to be overly nostalgic about how things really were. Everyone wants things to be “normal” but we need to reset our expectations. Don’t expect life to go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. Unfortunately, we can’t turn back the hands of time and start over. In other words, we can’t “un-see,” or “un-experience,” or “un-know” what we’ve experienced during this crisis. By only looking back, and not forward, will prevent us from ever moving on.
The unknowns about the future can be scary. Living through COVID-19 and adjusting to new ways of living is an ongoing process. The midpoint of any type of change is often confusing, chaotic and filled with uncertainty. We may feel stuck in the middle or trapped during this transitional period. We can’t go back, yet we haven’t arrived in the final place we hope to be. This is a lot for anyone to manage, especially since the final timeframe remains uncertain (You may be wondering, “When will it all be over?”).
Discovering Our Path Forward
During this “interim” normal period we are challenged to learn and adapt, relearn and adapt again (and again) to various changes we face. Think of it as climbing a mountain and reaching plateaus along the way. You pause, take a break, reset expectations, then find the strength to move onward and upward. Here’s an example: If your children return to school for in-person learning, it changes the family’s dynamic. Everyone needs to readjust to the current reality (school schedules, wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, etc.). The current reality might change again, depending on what is happening with the virus.
Self care – more important than ever before
Don't put too much pressure on yourself to maintain complete normalcy in your life right now. Simply do the best you can. This is not the best time to make major life changes or to try new things. Maintain consistency whenever you can. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. It’s important to focus on yourself — make sure you are eating, sleeping, exercising and practicing positive self-care routines during these strange and stressful times.
Tap into an EAP
Any efforts that an employer can take to normalize stress reactions will let your team members know that what they are experiencing is understandable under the circumstances. If an employee or a family member is struggling to cope, the services of an EAP can be invaluable. EAP counselors can help resolve personal problems quickly and effectively. Counseling options may include in-person, telephonic or “virtual” counseling.
EAPs help employees deal with:
• relationship conflicts
• parenting or aging parent issues
• grief and loss
• depression and anxiety
• balancing home and work
• alcohol and/or drug abuse
• financial, credit and debt problems
• child care concerns
None of us have experience living through a global pandemic of this magnitude. It’s helpful to recognize those things we can’t control and accept our new temporary “interim normal” for what it is. Life will keep changing into the foreseeable future. Maintaining a positive frame of reference will help us adapt and accept the changes, challenges and uncertainty we all face. We’re going to get through this together.
Want to learn more about mental health, wellbeing and employee resilience during COVID-19? Watch Advocate Aurora’s webinar: Mental Health in the Workplace, Amidst A Pandemic.
To look for a robust EAP for your organization, check out Advocate Aurora’s Employer Solutions. A solution customized to your company’s culture could also include employer clinics, wellness, occupational health, executive health programs and more.
Pauline Krutilla, MS, CEAP, serves Advocate Aurora Health as Director of EAP.