The New Normal
Beth Albaneze, CTRS CPRP CLP
We can all agree that 2020 wasn’t our best year. Now that we are officially in 2021, we might be able to gain a little perspective on our situation. It also gives us the chance to calibrate to our new normal.
The old normal typically means having a purpose to get out of bed and then following through the daily life events on the calendar. To find fulfillment in those daily activities, it is important to know what yardstick you use to measure your self-worth. As a recreation therapist, I know many people who derive self-esteem and even their very identity from their jobs. They view recreation as a reward for their work, rather than as its own valuable activity.
The new normal does not allow for that kind of thinking, because for most people, work looks different than it did before Coronavirus. When your office is in your living room and your breakroom is the kitchen, does it still count? How do you reward yourself? And what if you have lost your job — how will you measure your self-worth then? Recreation isn’t something we have to earn — it is a key element of having a healthy self-
perception. A healthy leisure identity leads to a healthy sense of worth, which leads to better, more rewarding choices throughout the day. Healthy recreation contributes to our insight, intuition, responses, listening and overall wellbeing.
As we turn the calendar over to 2021, everyone is faced with a new work identity, and it is
often a compromised version of the old self-image, like a copy of a copy. Changes in our work lives have meant our “old normal” source of identity isn’t applicable in our new, unpredictable reality. And our recreation — from sports to in-person book clubs — has likewise been affected by the pandemic and physical distancing.
To adapt in a healthy, positive way to our new collective normal, we have to analyze why we are drawn to certain activities and identities. Where one person might get a job in the parks service to be outside all the time, another might join a hiking group for the same reason. Yet another person might join a hiking group to alleviate their loneliness. All three use their interests to enhance their lives and their self-perception — one makes it his
job, one makes it part of their physical health routine, and the third does it for mental health.
All three examples want to repeat the hiking activity because it contributes to their quality of life in different ways. Understanding why you wanted to participate in a select activity in the past will help you decide whether you can or should incorporate it into our new normal. Once you determine the reason a recreational activity is important to you, it is easier to decide which elements to adapt to your new circumstances.
For example, where you previously enjoyed participating in book club discussions at other
people’s homes, you may find that it was the reading you enjoyed or you might find that the socializing was the main draw for you. If it was the reading, that’s an easy enough remedy: just pick up a book. If it was the socializing around books, join an online book club or consider adapting the activity to involve your family at home by reading an age-appropriate book together and discussing it as a family. Or, maybe you’ll find that your interest lies more in the socializing rather than books, which could mean you’ll find just as much enjoyment playing family trivia or other games instead.
If you know what activities you have done in the past that have created a sense of joy, peace, positivity and fulfillment for you, and if you can maintain the part of the activity that you need for your self-worth, then you should be able to sustain the positive returns, even if you have to shift the activity slightly.
Many studies have shown that identifying and participating in healthy activities that give you joy lead to less incidence of depression, anxiety, isolation, hopelessness and overall lack of interest. If you are unable to find joy, happiness or hope in activities that once fulfilled you, reach out to a professional who can identify techniques and strategies to help you.