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#Pandemica: Adapting and Integrating to the New World

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#Pandemica: Adapting and Integrating to the New World

April 26
16:24 2022

The Issue

“The world had taken a deep break and was having doubts about continuing to revolve,” Maya Angelou says in her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. What if the world has started revolving and it is you who has doubts about continuing to revolve in it?

This is a totally normal response to an extraordinary life event that to some may not seem real and to others who have lost loved ones, work, finances, friends, and even a part of themselves, it is all too real. You cannot “un-feel” it. How do we begin revolving again at our own comfort level? Or maybe you do not want to revolve endlessly as in pre-pandemic life because, in your mind-without having to explain or justify it-it is just too risky. What if both answers were acceptable and there was no wrong way for any one person to re-acclimate to “before times?”

Busy Busy Americans

Pre-pandemic, there were idiosyncratic sayings like FOMO and YOLO mirroring the pioneering American spirit of seizing the day. If you work hard enough at work, at nutrition, at health, it was essentially all in your control, including planning your day. Pre-pandemic life was filled with the illusion that we were in control of our work, relationships, and daily habits. We loved to be so busy with work, busy with friends, working out, family, etc. That ended abruptly and everyone’s life was literally stopped, and unfortunately for so many, literally.

Pandemic FOMO

Pandemic FOMO is a real thing that people are experiencing as the world opens again, though many are not quite ready for it to go back to the way it was-and still, countless others who may have different risk tolerance or physical ailments, who may need more time before getting back to any sense of normalcy, if at all. That is the thing about pandemic FOMO, that it is out of our control depending on all of our individual risk factors or idiosyncrasies, and life may not look at all like what it looked like back in February of 2020. There are (by choice or by not) radical changes that have shifted people’s identities, relationships with friends and families, and work that may be forever altered or lost. All of this is contributing to a collective, familial, and individual trauma in addition to the major life disruptions that have happened globally.

Trauma: The Pandemic Created a Global, Collective, and Individual Trauma

Carl Jung, America’s spiritual psychologist, was the first to discuss collective, family, and individual trauma. These all run together and are each distinct. Until we acknowledge the struggle, we cannot integrate a new way of living, being, and communicating. Although we have less control now than we thought we did over what happens to us (psychologists and doctors have always realized that we have less control over our lives than we want to accept on a conscious level), our self-agency has had to bolster itself to get through this time. It is not an easy adaptation backward. The pandemic has also emboldened a culture of rudeness and entitlement-part of the “Are you in?” or “Are you out?” paradigm that has emerged. This is low-level, crisis, animal brain thinking and functioning.

Healing From Trauma: High-Level Thinking

To heal from trauma, we must slow down and shed the fight or flight and busy busy busy all the time mentality so prevalent in American culture. All the busyness before the pandemic did not leave time or facilitate the existential dilemma many of us are dealing with as the world reopens and we may not be ready for it to do so. The pandemic also exposed many other viruses that the world is fighting, such as poverty and inequity. Like a Band-Aid being ripped off, many of us are newly aware of the gravity of ills and inequities exposed from the convergence of events in the spring/summer of 2020, and we are without healthy coping mechanisms for the new reality that pre-pandemic life is gone and we are in a new phase of integration. In general, Americans are not comfortable with thinking that they are not in control of their lives, their work, finances, etc., and integrating the new reality takes new skills of adaptation we have not seen or needed before.

Adapting and Integrating to the New World

One virus that no one discusses but goes to the heart of the issue (now that we have been forced to have the space to face existential questions of identity and self) is how people were able to take the time to reflect and ask, Am I happy being so busy? Am I comfortable with the world reopening? Why am I the only one with a mask on? Or how you may not have felt comfortable when your friends invited you to a concert and it puts a real rift in the connection. It seems that because without mindful adaptation, people are using binary models as a primitive fight or flight response-and the “You are either with us or against us” mentality seems present. It is not so simple at all. The pandemic has exposed our hearts to ourselves and made us rethink what is right on an individual level that may not flow with friends or family or work anymore… We have to dig deep to communicate these differences in risk tolerance without disrupting those connections because there is still hope that one day we will get to a new normal.

How to Fix It? Remedies for Pandemic FOMO

Practice mindfulness. What am I feeling? Really focus on the emotion, whether it is joy or grief or sadness-do not judge it; just be with it-and slowly breathe in and out through the emotion not trying to change it or fix it. Just let it be and it will pass with deep breathing and some gentle mindfulness.

Practice radical self-acceptance. Acknowledge that we all have different motivations and reasons and accept that we all have to make, live or die by our choices; so, it is critical to honor yourself without judgment or criticism. It is okay if you are fearful and uncomfortable. There is no race or timetable to get back to the busyness of the world.

Practice radical self-care. Grounding every day by walking in grass, taking a bath with Epsom salts (widely believed in the integrative medicine field to calm the nervous system), and treating yourself as you would treat your grandparent or child if he or she were sick. Practice that kindness on yourself, especially in a world that is moving faster and more abruptly than we would want it to.

All we are is dust in the wind. Practice aligning yourself with a universal presence-could be spirituality, could be religion, or could just be nature, but find something outside of yourself that is meaningful to you and does not place you at risk if you are not comfortable with everyone’s different levels of risk-taking.

What Will This Psychobabble Do for Me?

Radical acceptance and radical self-care are the heart and soul’s way to find resilience and hope. We have to be captains and stewards of ourselves. So, as America enlivens itself again and pushes boundaries that many are not ready to face yet or ever again, we must practice accepting those feelings, whether momentary or lasting, without judgment or reprisal. That is the one thing you can control. You do you. To regain a sense of self-agency, let all else fall away. After all, we must remember that despite everything we have seen and been through, ultimately, the human spirit is resilient, and hope always springs eternal.

About the Author

Hope Phillips Umansky, PhD, Consulting Psychologist, American Culture Professor.

Dr. Hope, as she is professionally known, is an esteemed professor, keynote speaker & author. As a professor, her expertise is in American culture, Writing & Rhetoric, and Leadership. Additionally, after a near-decade as a CEO for a clinical and integrative psychology and integrative health graduate institute, Dr. Hope also now works as consulting psychologist and strategist.

Find Dr. Hope on the web:

Dr. Hope’s Psycho-Edu Consulting Site []

Hope Health and Healing, Consulting & Integrative Psychology []

Dr. Hope On Point []

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