Adjusting to a New Normal

by | Recovery, Trauma

So, something has happened and your life is changed forever.

You’ve done the things you need to do physically, and you’re doing an okay job of putting yourself together emotionally, but you’re still waking up in the morning to a completely different life than the one you had before.

photo of man surrounded by trees

Maybe someone has died, maybe you had a relationship end, or lost a job. Maybe you got a diagnosis, or maybe it’s one of the “standard” life transitions from school, uni, or home.

No matter what it is, there’s no shame in feeling off kilter, or that you don’t know what to do next aside from putting one foot in front of the other and waiting for things to feel normal again.

Let’s go over a few options.

Make time for mourning and grief

If something has changed, it’s okay to take time to mourn and grieve for the life you had before. Sometimes we feel like the thing that’s changed is small, or normal, or like it’s something we shouldn’t feel some kind of loss about, but all change contains loss in some form or another.

Mourning or grief doesn’t just mean sadness. For really big changes that were made without our consent, we might skip right past sadness for the loss and go straight to being really pissed off at how unfair this situation is.

Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to sit with whatever it is you’re feeling without judgement or hurry. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Especially if it’s uncomfortable.

Judgement and Comparison

Take a moment to consider when you’re judging yourself or your feelings. They might take some sneaky forms, but they often contain words like “should”, “shouldn’t”, or “can’t”:

red Wrong Way signage on road
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Take a moment to identify what’s on your mind. Usually, there’s something in it that can be picked apart. Maybe it’s going to extremes, or maybe it’s just not true. For each of the things you’re feeling, find a way to reframe it, so you can remind yourself when that thought pops up.

Instead of “I need to”, try “I get to”. “I get to start healing from this”.

Instead of “I shouldn’t be”, try “I am ”. “I am feeling sad. It’s been six months.”

Lots of these thoughts can take the form of comparing yourself to other people, to an ideal version of yourself, or to the life you feel like you should have.

Do you want to know something fun?

None of those things exist. They’re all made up.

You can use these things to set reasonable goals for yourself in some circumstances, but comparing where you’re at this moment to where you could be if everything had gone right isn’t helpful, and it’s probably not being used to propel you forwards.

Acceptance and Curiosity

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the way things are we close ourselves off to the way things could be, or things that look a little bit different to the way we feel they should be.

There’s that word again. Should.

Get curious. What could happen? What would it look like if you accepted things exactly as they are instead of assigning meaning or judgement to it?

black and white road sign
Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash

What’s changing inside you right now? What skills are you building or finding in yourself as a result of this?

Open yourself up to new skills, directions, feelings, and opportunities.

Accept the following things:

  • It’s okay to feel things
  • It’s okay to not feel things
  • It’s okay to feel happy or relieved
  • There is no set timeline to adjusting to a new situation

There is no moving “forward” or “backward”. Just forwards through time. There isn’t doing “better” or “worse”.

Looking at your Identity

We often associate who we are with who we’re near, who we like, and how we’re living our lives.

When something happens that challenges that, it can feel like it tears down everything.

photo of a women holding three balloon close-up photography
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

That can be an interesting place to start.

What parts of yourself did you like? What parts didn’t you like? Who are you without the parts of you that you thought were inseparable?

You don’t need to know the answers to these questions, but it’s good to get curious about finding out. You may find that you’re just as clever, just as caring, just as interesting, and just as valuable, even without the part of your life that you’ve lost.

The process of adjusting to a new normal isn’t about finding your way back to the life you had before. It’s about finding the resilient, flexible part of you that’s not going to break under the weight of what’s happened. That part might take a while to find, but it’s there.

Life is long and lots of things can happen that don’t kill you. It doesn’t mean it makes you stronger. It might just make you different, and I’m sure there’s a part of that different person that you like.

Look to other people

Not everyone will understand what you’re going through. Some people will probably have judgements of their own, especially when what you’re going through impacts on them.

Find the people in your life you can rely on. If you don’t feel like you have any, make a point of seeking them out. There’s all sorts of community groups, facebook pages, and gatherings out there, and I’ll even bet that there’s one for people going through exactly what you’re going through now, if you’re looking for people who can relate.

a person sitting on a couch with a laptop
Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

If you’re going through any sort of big transition, we suggest getting in touch with someone who can help you keep track of things and help you see how far you’ve come.

If you’re in the Newcastle area, Reflex is a mobile counselling service that has workers that specialise in guiding people through big changes and can help you with building the skills and supports that you need.

About the Author

Alicia Louise she/they Alicia is a founder of Reflex, a mental health educator, and a lived-experience advocate. She has a special interest in the intersection of mental health and community care. In her down time, she enjoys art, music, and design.

About Reflex

This article was brought to you by Reflex Response Services, a trauma counselling and support charity based in Newcastle, Australia.

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