Does 2020 Have You Feeling Off? Congratulations. You’re Normal.

Posted on November 10, 2020

Many of my friends have told me they are in a deep funk. Businesses they love have closed. They want to hop on a plane without wearing a mask and escape to somewhere exotic. They just want to hide at home and lose themselves in mindless fun family activities.

My husband and I have lived extensively overseas and want you to know what you are feeling is NORMAL. You are experiencing culture shock.

That’s right: Despite staying home and reducing our overall footprint on life, we are all in the midst of a huge culture shift.

Just consider:

  • Our interactions with one another have changed dramatically with the influence of social media, particularly as those platforms have evolved and implemented algorithmic changes to spur higher engagement.
  • Schooling has changed. Work has changed. Dining has changed. Faith groups have changed. Recreational activities have changed. Shopping has changed.

Let’s talk about culture shock and what it means for you. There are four typical phases. The following graphic (commonly sourced anywhere on the internet) will help you visualize this and understand average timelines associated with each phase.

Visual of shock curve

  1. Honeymoon stage. 

Typically this is a somewhat positive phase. While there are things that are less than ideal (pandemic hair, anyone?), you feel like you can manage most things. Zoom meetings are new and different, and you marvel at how fast you can get things done. Tik Tok workout routines are fun. You binge watch all the things. Stay home orders are put in a box titled “Exciting Adventure We’re All On For a While.”

  1. Frustration stage.

This is the most difficult phase – and congratulations, for most of us it’s where we are right now. Zoom sucks. Taking out food sucks. Wearing a mask sucks. Hitting six stores to find one box of Clorox toilet wand refills sucks. Small things, like being told “we don’t have coins so can you pay with exact change or use credit” can push you over the edge. You may feel inexplicably exhausted despite getting extra sleep, battle bouts of depression and long for the Before Times.

  1. Adjustment stage.

Frustration starts to subdue as you start to adjust to how things are. You may even begin to use the phrase “my new normal.” You build new ways of doing things, figure out how to telework or hybrid work, and figure out the right risk calculation for your life, activities and in-person encounters. Some people you know may be in this phase already, particularly in places where the pandemic had an earlier impact.

  1. Acceptance stage.

Normal life resumes. It likely won’t ever be exactly the same as your old life, but it will be a new way of living that feels relatively natural. You will feel like you’re thriving again. This doesn’t mean you won’t miss the Before Times or understand why we all navigated through significant and confusing changes, but thinking about #2020 no longer consumes your thoughts.

Give yourself time and grace. As they say, this too shall pass. And above all else, know what you are feeling is normal and expected, even though it’s hard, crazy and confusing.

You. Are. Normal.


Shannah Hayley is the Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the City of Plano. When she’s not busy hugging haters or writing a Taylor Swift video parody to promote city services, she serves as the Curator for TEDxPlano. Connect with Shannah on email and Twitter.

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