STELLPFLUG COLUMN: This 'new normal' leaves many of us feeling anxious

STELLPFLUG COLUMN: This 'new normal' leaves many of us feeling anxious

  • 0

We are learning a new language and the meanings of the words are becoming quite clear. “Hunkering down” is what we used to do in a snowstorm. Now it is becoming mandatory.

“Flattening the curve” is new to most of us and means using isolation measures to keep the daily number of the coronavirus disease cases at a manageable level. This is what we have come to. It’s not about avoiding the infection. It’s about limiting the numbers on any given day to not overwhelm the health care facilities. And using language that needs explaining.

As for the “new normal,” that’s a term I enjoyed when it referenced relationships, family life and changing times. I don’t want to associate it with panic, hoarding toilet paper and schools closing indefinitely. Or maybe that is the new normal.

“Social distancing” has been introduced as a trendy way of saying keep your distance. It is from the Emory Bogardus psychological testing scale that empirically measures people’s willingness to minimize contact with one another. It actually was used to measure prejudice against ethical and racial groups, but it’s a catchy phrase, isn’t it?

Actually, it also describes the distance which an animal can stand to be away from its group before beginning to feel anxious. I can’t be the only one who is a bit anxious.

I know that I personally have a hard time mastering social distancing since I am a hugger, a kisser and an overall touching kind of person. I already miss my friends and minimizing contact is a hardship. Total isolation is a form of withdrawal for me.

“Shelter in place” and “quarantine” are certainly not upbeat words, yet here they are being used daily. To me they sound ominous and even threatening. We have come leaps and bounds from staycation, a lovely term used to indicate a fun way of being together without going anywhere.

Staycations are great for children who might otherwise think they are being socially isolated. Staycations might be a way to introduce all of the positive fallout from these unusual times. Yes, there are upsides. When a young friend posted that he hadn’t had five meals together with his family in years—I’d say that is an upside. Another friend told of teaching her children to cook and bake, something she never learned herself. There are stories of houses getting cleaned—as part of home school curriculum, windows getting washed and drawers being uncluttered for entertainment and accomplishments.

People are writing letters, face-timing and calling old friends. Families are dusting off their bikes and are getting out to hike trails they have always wanted to try. Yard work, spring cleanup and yes, planning gardens for the first time in years are on many lists of “things to do.”

Friends are posting and emailing creative projects, recipes, and patterns for everything from clothing to building projects.

Plays, concerts and exercise classes are being streamed and made available to the masses. Music and the arts are being reintroduced to otherwise “too busy” lives. Books are being read aloud online, even by Betty White—who is well and self-isolating.

Neighbors are checking on neighbors, dropping off groceries and basically being good neighbors. People are tending to their own health and well-being.

As for entertainment, some of us are watching “Outbreak” and “Contagion,” others are revisiting Hallmark movies. We may choose to read meditative and peaceful things, or Stephen King, depending on our constitution.

My granddaughter was telling me about some of the books she is reading. The “Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events” was in the lineup.

As you may know those books are depressing and bleak. She has read those books before and has seen the movies. I asked her why she and her brother aren’t choosing happy stories and really fun books? She answered very quickly, “Why would we want to do that? Then it would seem like our lives really suck?”

Her point is well taken. We can’t control what is happening, but we can control our attitude and our response. I was so disappointed to not be able to be with them this spring break, but they are having a staycation.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

We're in this together. (Just don't stand so close.) We're unified in our goal. (But look, 6 feet away, OK?) If you haven't been outside lately, let me paint a picture: People are outside but not many people are outside, and wherever people are going right now - to grocery stores, jogging trails, gas stations - an elaborate dance is happening, a social distancing pas de deux, being learned on ...

Joe, a semiretired 81-year-old, never expected his Italy guys' trip to thrust him into the front ranks of COVID-19 patients. Joe's story goes against the grain of news about the coronavirus now gripping the world and providing epidemiologists and public health experts with the challenge of their professional lives. Joe is a patient of a medical colleague, and he and his wife gave me permission ...

People around the world are bemoaning having to stay mostly at home for some weeks because of COVID-19. After just a day or two - even with the internet, Netflix, books, music, games, FaceTime and endless other ways to entertain themselves and stay connected, not to mention walks in the park and trips to the grocery store - many people reported feeling lonely, bored, restless, or even ...

President Donald Trump was widely criticized after he said that "I'd love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter." The most important holiday on the Christian calendar, he added later, would be a "beautiful time" to have "packed churches." For some, the president's suggestion about an Easter reopening was a subset of his seeming overeagerness to revive the economy by ...

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste," Rahm Emanuel advised in the midst of the 2008 financial meltdown. It's advice that China appears to have taken to heart. For as the world grapples with how to control a pandemic that has now spread to 175 nations, infected hundreds of thousands and killed more than 20,000 people, China is asserting itself as the global savior that will lead the world ...

  • Updated

Nikki Haley took to Twitter on Thursday to complain about a few items in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that the Senate passed Wednesday and the House passed Friday. She could have objected to the White House's reluctance to spend $1 billion on life-saving ventilators, but that would have put her in President Donald Trump's Twitter crosshairs. She commendably stepped down from the board of ...

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate Wednesday night provides enormous loans to airlines and other businesses as well as rebates of $1,200 to most low- and middle-income U.S. adults. But the legislation bars an important group from receiving rebates: elderly and disabled adults who are financially dependent on family members. The result is that the largest aid package in U.S. ...

We're in the midst of a pandemic, with residents in many states around the country - including California - under orders to remain at home except for essential trips to essential businesses. A run to the drugstore for a prescription is still allowed, for obvious reasons. So is going the grocery store to stock up on food. But how about a quick trip to the nearest gun shop for a new .38 and some ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alert

Breaking News