Barton Goldsmith: Making good use of ‘the new normal’

Tribune Content Agency

I always wanted to be among the best in my field, and that desire has made coping in COVID country much more complicated. With many events for 2021 already cancelled and big business telling team members that they can work at home from now on, the winds of change are going to be with us for a long time, but it is not all bad.

Pretty much most of us will have to retrench, rebudget, rethink and remind ourselves that though this won’t go on forever, some of these adjustments will be permanent. The desire for social distancing will not go away anytime soon, for example. Many people have become germophobes and with good reason. What’s happening now may continue to dictate what we do with our lives and how to get there.

I’ve reinvented myself several times, and although I had other plans, I guess it’s time for another rebuild, because stopping is just not in my makeup. I could retire, but that doesn’t seem like much fun to me. I’m a people person and, right now, retirement can be very isolating.

Retirement is also more difficult now for most people. Many retirees have to do things differently, like not seeing grandchildren and figuring out how to stay safe when they are at their most vulnerable. Perhaps that reality is part of the reason we all need to consider putting our energy and drive into things other than work, like people and smelling the roses. Maybe slowing down a little does make sense.

Everyone’s experience is different. We may all be in this together, but we’re in different boats, as they say. A few literally have mega-yachts. Others barely have a life raft. Most of us are somewhere inbetween, navigating shifting winds. Which, to me, means that everything around me is saying slow down, it will be better if you find ways to relax into your new way of life, and that can be a little unsettling.

If you’ve always been ambitious, someone who thrived on moving your life forward, this may be a hard time for you emotionally. To create more balance in your life, you have to figure out the best way to manage until you’re out of rough waters. It’s not about getting to a destination; it’s about holding on until the seas become calm enough to navigate.

If you have too much time on your hands, you will need to pick up a couple of things to keep busy. When you are all alone in your head, it can be a very difficult place to feel safe, so try to find meaningful activities and people. If you can make this time about calm and connection, you will get something out of it that you can use for the rest of your life.

Sometimes just relabeling how you are doing your life helps. For example, you could call this time a sabbatical, time off to rediscover and recharge. If you keep thinking that you are not doing enough, it will only make this time harder. It’s important to see what you do as adding value to yourself and to those around you. That takes a little more involvement than just scrolling on social media.

You don’t have to do anything, really — your main objective should be to just survive this — but you can choose to do more. Many people are taking this time to improve their lifestyles, homes, and minds. Others have applied their energy to demanding badly needed social change or to helping those in need. Whatever you choose to put your time into, know that it will make you feel better as well as make the world a better place to be.


(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith


©2020 Barton Goldsmith

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.