Editor’s note: Transform Through Therapy specializes in online group therapy, with a special focus on grief and caregiving. In this series, they will be talking about COVID-19 and the impact it is having on mental health.
As social distancing guidelines keep getting pushed out further and further, many people may be wondering when we’re going back to normal? And is that even possible?
The short answer is no. Looking at history, there are lots of examples of tragedies and situations that have changed the culture: war, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 are examples. COVID-19 is changing everyday life, and as a result, there are going to be cultural shifts not only here in the United States, but worldwide.
Here we’ll talk about three reasons that COVID-19 falls into this category of events that bring lasting changes, as well as some ways the inevitable “new normal” can be one based in hope and not based in fear.
There’s a loss of security
As human beings, we find a sense of safety and security in our habits, patterns and traditions. Social distancing is disrupting even the simplest of those habits, like how we get our morning coffee, buy groceries or spend our free time. Easter celebrations for many had to be completely altered from large family gatherings and spring break vacations to quiet, simple dinners of non-traditional dishes. And that can be very unsettling.
Those things that create the heartbeat of consistency in life are now changing. Baseline shifts can have a big impact.
This is a domino effect
When there is an earthquake, it’s not just the initial temblor, but the wave of aftershocks that follow. With COVID-19, yes, it’s the spreading of illness. But then there are the aftershocks that are affecting jobs, the economy and people’s retirement, our ability to travel, our ability to learn. Friendships and other relationships may be altered.
And the biggest part of this is that we don’t know when it’s going to stop. There is no end date for the aftermath. And that unknown is difficult to swallow.
We are finding new ways of doing things
We may not know what they’re going to be specifically, but we know that new habits are developing and new perspectives are opening up. Specifically for COVID-19, there is a digital shift that will likely stay to varying degrees. Grandparents are utilizing video conferencing to connect with families, managers are learning to work with their teams remotely, people are ordering food online. While these technologies aren’t going to be the only way we want to connect in the future, this will keep a place in many people’s regular lives to some degree moving forward.
How do we move forward with hope, not fear?
If we look at those previously mentioned events, there were positives that came out of tragedy.
After Hurricane Katrina, there were better response protocols for emergencies, building standards for homes in the area improved, and we learned that communities were capable of coming together to lift each other up.
At the end of World War I, the Allies were very punitive in how they handled Germany and others involved that limited their ability to bounce back. World War II occurred in large part because Germany wasn’t able to recover from World War I. The second time around, the Allies knew they needed to deal with this in a different way. So they built relationships and helped build the countries back up. And now those are some of the biggest allies to the Western world.
And we, as the United States, benefited from that positive reaction. We had explosive growth, science and discovery, stemming from the open relationships with foreign countries. This changed the course of history in an incredibly positive way.
History has taught us that as individuals and as communities, we can make a conscious decision to make this positive. We are going to evolve no matter what. The question is are we going to evolve in the right direction?
The biggest thing we can do is look at what we have to offer: our time, our skills, even words of support.
Some examples of this happening already:
A prominent videographer in Utah Valley is bringing together marketing executives to put together free video seminars to teach small business owners how to shift their operations online so they continue doing business.
Podium, located in Lehi, is offering a free service to restaurant owners so they can manage curbside pickup and delivery orders.
Communities are brainstorming ways to honor graduating seniors who won’t be getting a high school graduation ceremony this year.
We grow through gratitude and service. When we are able to acknowledge and share our grief, and then think about what you can do to help someone else grieve less, then we’re evolving in a positive direction.