How would I describe the year that was 2020? Easy. I would call it the Year of Change. For a creature of habit, I found it incredibly inconvenient. It wasn’t as though I had a choice about the matter. The Covid-19 pandemic didn’t leave anyone with a choice. To curb the spread of the pandemic, offices were closed. Schools were closed. Restaurants were closed. So, whether I liked it or not, whether I was happy about it or not…I had to change. It wasn’t just a two-week change. Nor was it a four-week change. It became a permanent change, and I had to get used to that.
In the famous series Downton Abbey, the character of Martha Levinson, played by Shirley MacLaine, made this profound statement, “My world is coming nearer. And your world? It’s slipping further and further away.” The words were directed at the Dowager Countess of Grantham, delightfully played by Maggie Smith, to make a point about the decline of the British aristocracy. In other words, changes were happening, and it wasn’t the Dowager Countess’ cup of tea (British pun intended!)
Change can be uncomfortable. But once it begins, it can be hard to ignore. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had to learn to navigate many changes. Looking back, it wasn’t always easy, but here are five important things I’ve learned.
Difference between Change and Transition
But before I delve into those five things, I would like to first highlight the difference between ‘change’ and ‘transition’. Change is often related to an event that you can generally pinpoint on your calendar. A new addition to the family or a new management in the office, for example. Transition, on the other hand, is the internal psychological process of adapting to this new situation.
In 2020, there were a lot of changes that came into our lives. For example, the wearing of face masks in public, the concept of social distancing, or work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. I almost feel like we moved from one change to another at such a rapid speed. I don’t know about you, but I (foolishly) thought at the back of my mind that if we kept doing these things, life would return to the pre-pandemic normal. It took the words ‘a new normal’ to sink in. Classic denial, I know.
And that is why the year 2021 is truly the Year of Transition for me because that is when I began to realise, understand, accept, and adjust that we would never really return to a pre-pandemic normal. After all, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, the Malaysian Health Minister, aims for Malaysia to move from a pandemic to an endemic phase by the end of October. In other words, the virus would become a permanent presence in the community, similar to other endemic diseases such as dengue and influenza. That fact too would be part of our new normal.
1. Accept the New Normal
So, the first thing that I had to learn when it comes to change is to truly accept that the new normal is here to stay. I use the word ‘truly’ because it must sink deep into our hearts. At first, we may tend to resist the changes, or even deny that things will return to normal soon. But the faster we let go of those thoughts, the faster we begin to adjust to the new.
In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve had to accept that the carefree pre-pandemic days will never really return because I imagine that for a pretty long time, I will be conscious of the virus every time I venture outdoors.
2. Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
When the realisation that ‘the new’ is here to stay starts to sink in, there can be a flurry of emotions such as sadness or anger. Allow yourself the room to feel these emotions instead of burying or suppressing them. But only allow yourself space to do that for a time before choosing to move on.
3. Be Flexible
Choose to have a positive mindset and be flexible to things that you might need to change. Making adjustments in my life can certainly be uncomfortable, but I’ve found out that the longer I choose to be disgruntled, I won’t be making any progress at all. So, view every adjustment as an adventure and try to have as much fun as you can!
4. Be Gracious, Be Patient
When you have a ‘relapse’ or a particularly low moment, be gracious to yourself. It is also important to be patient with yourself, even if the process may seem slow and you don’t think you are making any progress at all. Don’t be too hard on yourself because after all, you are only human. If need be, reach out for help from loved ones who can support you. Most importantly, make a commitment to get back on track and don’t look back at your regressions.
5. Give Yourself Time and Celebrate Every Milestone
Remember the saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’? Likewise, this process does not happen overnight. It takes time, so give yourself ample time to fully adapt. If it helps, mark every progress – big and small – so you can celebrate every milestone!
Did You Know?
Here’s a fun fact that I have learned about viruses – they constantly change to adapt and survive and that’s how variants emerge: when a strain has one or more mutations that differ from others!
So, if these viruses are doing that…shouldn’t we, and all the more so?
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” – Gail Sheehy
Hannah Becca is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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