The Ephemeral Nature of Normal

Here’s a question for you, now that we’re a little halfway through this mishigas of a year: what does “normal” even mean anymore?

I won’t quote dictionaries at you; you know better than anyone else what normal looks like for you. As humans, we’re simple creatures of habit. We get into routines, we set our own boundaries, we develop preferences and nurture them. We create our normal, settle in and get comfortable — and then along comes a pandemic to throw everything into the air like so many juggling balls.

And it does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it? Your job situation changes (working from home, losing hours, being let go), there’s nowhere to take the kids all summer, your loved ones are all at each other’s throats, no one knows what schools will be doing next year but they’re asking you to decide what to do right now… this is a real cluster, and here we are trying to balance it all, when the easier thing to do would be to let it hit the floor.

You feel like you’re not keeping up the way you used to, you’re frustrated with your seeming inability to get things done, the world feels like it’s had a sepia filter dropped over it, you’re losing track of time, and the calendar looks like a jumble of numbers and squares… and that hazy mess of confusion just happens to be the sneakiest way depression gets the drop on you.

It’s not the symptom we usually focus on when we talk about depression. We’re used to seeing pervasive self-hatred and dislike, fatigue and an empty tank of energy, disturbed sleep habits, isolation, and the midnight munchies (because making a midday meal feels like climbing Mount Everest). Above all, there’s the constant weight of sadness, and the creeping diminishment from being soaked in feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that sneak up on you, becoming a true blue cognitive distortion that colors your thinking.

But when you’re experiencing a significant loss of focus and concentration, the disruption to your thought patterns can easily become just as intrusive. When you can’t remember details or make clear decisions and “normal” changes every time the sun comes up, it’s hard to feel like you’re in control of anything around you.

So, my advice? Forget what’s around you (easier said than done, I know, but bear with me…) and start with what’s within you. If you can focus on only one thing at a time, make that one thing your breathing. Let it shape how you move through the world and use it to redirect your thoughts — and a great way to get started is with Breathe To Beat The Blues, an evergreen meditation by the incomparable Amy Weintraub. Her audio also pairs wonderfully with our Guided Meditation for Healthful Sleep, a duo to wake you up and send you off to slumberland again with centering, peaceful words and richly evocative music.

If you’re frustrated and disappointed with yourself for not living up to your own expectations — expectations shaped by a “normal” that no longer exists in the same way — try Bodhipaksa’s affirming and comforting set of meditations in How To Stop Beating Yourself Up.

And if you’re ready to go all-in against the doldrums and take every advantage to keeping the bad moods, temper flares, and overwhelming exhaustion at bay, look no further than a classic bundle: Defeat Depression, Beat The Blues offers the full range of what works on depression — guided imagery, hypnosis, mindfulness and yoga breathing, in that order, and is built to give you the edge you need:

Start with the things in life you can control. Start with yourself: your body, your spirit, your mind.

And if the rest of the world wants to pick a fight, tell it to get in line.

PS. Health Journeys is proud to present, in collaboration with the amazing and benevolent Carolina Ortiz, Liberando la Carga Emocional: Aliviando la Depresión, our Spanish language audio for relieving depression and freeing yourself from emotional baggage. Perfect for those for whom Spanish is their primary language, or who find it easier or more comforting to listen to guided meditations in Spanish rather than in English. We're thrilled to reach out to our audience in this way, and invite you to continue watching this space for more information, new releases, and the expansion of our Spanish language catalog.