Public Speaker and Advocate - Challenge America
Torrey Shannon works closely with organizations like Challenge America and Challenge Aspen as an advocate, helping veterans and their families improve their quality of life in the face of military injuries and post traumatic…
What is a "new normal" and how does it help me deal with stress?
Posted in Caregivers by Torrey L. Shannon on Aug 05, 2010
What is normal anyway? Can anyone really have a “normal” life in all ways possible?

The website defines normal as:

Normal –adjective
1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural
2. serving to establish a standard

For most people, when life is comfortable and consistent, it is considered normal. It is a standard that is established for oneself where there are limited conflicts, natural routines, and expected outcomes.

Our life is defined by creating routines. We go to work, school, social events and other activities on a regular and routine basis. We drive the same route to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, to church and to our favorite parks. Every so often we change our driving route because of unexpected traffic patterns or weather patterns. Sometimes we even have to reschedule our events because of sickness, taking on outside commitments at the last minute, or just being too tired or overbooked.

All these factors are not easily preventable. We accept those types of changes, even if it doesn’t make us happy. We adjust our day as needed and move on and get over it. Is that traffic jam really going to matter the next day when your commute goes as planned? No. Not unless you dwell on the negatives in your life and hold onto frustration beyond the course of being “normal.”

But what do you do when your life is disrupted by something bigger than a traffic jam or a sick child? What if you have to deal with a life-changing or traumatic event? The loss of a job, a severe injury, death or divorce can disrupt our sense of normal in an instant. How do you adjust to this as quickly as it presented itself?

You don’t. It takes time, and it takes practice!

When life brings you life-altering events, don’t hold onto your existing definition and expectation of normal. You will only frustrate yourself and feel a sense of ongoing failure. Instead, embrace what is called a “new normal” in your life. Accept the reality of the situation and strive to find the positive outcomes that you DO have control over. With practice, you can even evolve this tragic event into a triumph if you put your mind to it. This all revolves around the art of having patience and flexibility.

My life has been far from normal. I’ve dealt with life-altering events that seemed insurmountable at times. With practice, I learned to pick my battles wisely. I learned to be incredibly flexible so I didn’t end up getting bent out of shape. I learned to laugh at the most unexpected things, and see the blessings that came when I needed it most. And, I also learned patience and love for my own self in the process.

Practicing these traits of patience and flexibility will give you the ability to deal with life-altering events much more easily if they ever present themselves. You can do this in everyday situations such as a traffic jam, or missing a day of work to care for a sick child, or just being too tired to do more than humanly possible. Give yourself permission to be kind to your own self when things do not go as planned.

When creating a “new normal” in your life, this practice of using patience and flexibility will come in very handy. Interjecting humor into stressful events can also relieve the pressure inside when all you want to do is cry. As much as you wonder and internalize, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this,” try to have faith in a bigger plan that may be waiting for you. You may not realize the positive side of a bad situation until long after you’ve gotten past the darkest moments. Use hindsight to realize there really can be a positive in every negative situation.

There was a time in my life when I put all my energy into finding my own definition of normal and making it my way of life. Now I realize that normal is never static and never the same. When I put my energy into accepting change as a way of life, normal became a very relative thing.

I encourage you to share ways you’ve learned to accept change in your own life. If you are having difficulty embracing change, we can work together and find suggestions to use in your own daily routines. With time, practice and patience, you can find your new normal, too.

Now is the time to learn to accept change. Learn that it’s okay not to have answers to all the questions in life. Learn that it’s okay to ask for help. Build a support network of people who have been in your shoes. Reach out as much as you can, and let one door open for every door that closes in your life.

- Torrey

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