New normality: the crisis of physical, psychological, and social adaptation

The pandemic affects our brain, in its interaction with the environment, which requires habituation. It is time to take charge of our life as a collective, to abate individuality, consumerism, and damage to the planet.

New normality: the crisis of physical, psychological, and social adaptation
New normality. Photo by shawnanggg / Unsplash

The new normality, after almost two years of the pandemic, is a stage of uncertainty and stress, which represents a crisis before the lived confinement and a period of adaptation to the current conditions that limit the coexistence between people, highlighted UNAM specialists.

"The brain has a special characteristic, it allows us to interact with the environment, whether people, environments, or other living beings. It gives us the ability to modify, manipulate and respond to that environment; as well as the flexibility to adapt to new environments and situations. But at the same time, it can be modified by these interactions and by this changing environment", said Ana Natalia Seubert Ravelo, a researcher at the Iztacala Faculty of Higher Education (FES).

In the distance media conference "How do we live the new normality?", she explained: the brain is modified every time we learn something or have an experience, whether positive or traumatic. "Changes are caused in the release of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, it can cause modifications at the hormonal level, new brain networks and connections are created, and even these interactions with the environment can generate transformations at the level of genetic activity. We call this brain plasticity".

All these processes, in turn, can have repercussions on how we feel, act and relate to others. This pandemic era, in which multiple aspects of physical and social life have been altered, affects our brains. This stage allows us to become flexible and adapt, which she described as a crisis and physical, psychological, and social adaptation.

Humans are social beings that require physical closeness, attachment, and identification of emotions in the faces of others to survive, obtain food and defend themselves from other groups. Society provides security, and we have developed a social brain, with specific networks that are involved in recognizing and analyzing social responses.

Social distancing and the constant use of face masks hinder our ability to recognize emotions from subtle gestures, especially in children; however, this is not a sufficient reason to avoid wearing a mask or maintaining social distance, because it is protection for everyone.

The researcher of the School of Psychology, María Emily Reiko Ito Sugiyama, recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic is not the first we have experienced, but we tend to forget or be indifferent to other phenomena experienced, such as influenza.

We live in an exclusionary social system, with a publicity mechanism that invites us to focus our attention on the self and to expect everyone to solve the situation they are living in with their resources. This circumstance prevails since before the pandemic, but it has been exacerbated.

There is a lifestyle centered on consumerism, characterized by an ever-increasing use of energy and the growing production of waste. This has impacted the environment and endangered the delicate natural balance of the planet. It is time to analyze whether the old normal is something we want to live with, investing hours to transport to work or school, eating without nourishment, and getting home alone to rest, almost without spending time with the family.

With the pandemic, the function of spaces has multiplied and there is more communication with families, although there are also problems of overcrowding in small places. Teleworking had already been proposed before the pandemic and now many want to keep it. Communication in the social and digital networks should be valued, which is increasing if we are at a distance but is interrupted when it is face to face since everyone is busy with their phone.

"The meaning and style of communication and interaction between people do not seem to me to have changed fundamentally; perhaps some formats have. We have not cared about the welfare of others, sometimes not even about our family, nor about the planet, which is our abode. We continue to be indifferent and thinking about short-term objectives linked to consumption," she said.