PEI·Point of View

On both craving and dreading 'normal' after COVID-19 lockdown: Point of View

Returning to my private counselling practice after the COVID-19 lockdown, I found a common theme among my clients — the desire for a return to a degree of normalcy, accompanied by equivalent dread of returning to what was once normal.

Counsellor Adrian Smith contemplates lessons learned during the pandemic lockdown

Many people sought peace on long walks in nature during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now dread losing that time to reflect. (Adrian Smith)

With the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, I had returned to my private counselling practice. I soon found a common theme among my clients — the desire for a return to a degree of normalcy, accompanied by equivalent dread of returning to what was once normal.

It was an emotional paradox. Forced to take the time to slow down, to breathe, many of my clients found they actually enjoyed it. The new pace felt good for the soul. My clients were compelled to acknowledge that not all aspects of their old lifestyles were worth keeping.

On a personal level, I happen to know a good deal about the potential dangers of rushing to return to normal.

I first took sick in 2002. I was working as a counselling consultant in Charlottetown. I worked hard; I got run down. My health specialist in Halifax speculated that I might have contracted a virus. What we knew for certain is that I had been exposed to mould and asbestos.

I was on sick leave for over a year. In the coming years, I worked hard to get my health back. I was making great progress; however, it was difficult for me to accept the fact that life as I knew it would never be totally the same. Regardless of how much I desired it, my life could never totally go back to how it was before.

Change is hard. It is difficult not to want to put the past, the troubles, behind us and run back to our old lives.

'We don't always get second chances'

Then I had a serious relapse in 2011. Back in 2002, I had missed a very important lesson — that if you want to get well just to be able to get back to exactly what you were doing before, then chances are, you're likely to eventually get sick again. Healing is only lasting with change. True change.

If we live our lives differently, with new meaning and purpose, we will stay healthy in an enduring way.— Adrian Smith

After 2011, I had learned my lesson. The second time around, the symptoms were more intense, my immune system was far weaker, and the recovery took much longer. It was a much harder journey — emotionally, mentally and physically. I had to commit to fundamental changes in my lifestyle and to accept those changes as my new reality. I had to learn to live differently. I knew that I had to learn how to live my life with new meaning. I had to learn to slow down. We don't always get second chances.

COVID-19 is providing the opportunity to learn the very same lesson. The world got sick, really sick. And we don't want to get sick again — on a global, domestic or individual level.

Sometimes it is easier to look at the global, national or even provincial landscape instead of a personal one. We can feel somewhat removed. However, when it comes to our work, our family relations, and our physical and mental health. I am proof of that. We cannot let all we have sacrificed and endured be of waste. Nor can we let all we have learned about ourselves during this pandemic be forgotten. If we live our lives differently, with new meaning and purpose, we will stay healthy in an enduring way.

True change heals.

'Spiritual awareness' gained during lockdown

In recent weeks, when I asked my clients what was bringing them a sense of peace during COVID-19, the answers were quite similar: quality time with family or roommates, long walks in nature, their pets, yoga or home exercise classes or taking time to read a new book.  Some were starting meaningful projects — learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, tackling small home renovations. People never mentioned the normal everyday distractions — television, technology, drugs and alcohol.

'Bring spiritual awareness into your everyday world. That's how we will all recover from whatever ails us,' advises Adrian Smith. (Adrian Smith)

I asked one of my clients, a very articulate woman, what was she afraid of losing with the return to normalcy. She immediately answered: "Time."

My client explained that she had used the time during the lockdown to focus on herself in a healthy manner that she previously never had… or made time for.

"COVID-19 allowed the time to bring spiritual awareness into my physical, everyday world," she said.

That's soul work. The origin of the word soul means "life; to breathe." Bring spiritual awareness into your everyday world. That's how we will all recover from whatever ails us. 

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About the Author

Adrian Smith

Columnist

Adrian retired from a 30-year career in education, primarily in student services. He now offers private counselling. He is the author of 2017's Finding Forgiveness and has a second book, A Reluctant Search for Spiritual Truths, being released later this summer. You can generally find him walking along the shores and trails of P.E.I. in the company of his loyal lab, Nelly.

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