Four Steps to Making “Normal”

Four Steps to Making “Normal”

When we can’t go back to the way things were

It’s like an extended vacation.  That’s what our brains think.  We will “figure” things out for a while and then things will go back to the way they were.  When we get to the new place everything is a fun puzzle.  It’s like having the Highlights Magazine arrive when I was 6 and going right to the Hidden Pictures page.  

What are we looking for now?  Peanut Butter.  Isle 3, third shelf. 
DONE! Cross it off the list.


The problem is that, like children, I got tired of the Hidden Pictures page and moved on to another game or interest.  When relocating, the puzzle stares at me waiting to be solved.  Even when I ignore it, it taps on my shoulder.

“You should really get that done.”

This primal process is what has kept us human beings safe from the beginning of time.  Once something has been evaluated and is deemed safe, our brains downshift the “high alert” energy and go into autopilot. This saves brain energy for eliminating any danger that may come our way later.

During the first year of relocation there is little that is routine and normal.

That natural downshift, where the brain relaxes, doesn’t occur typically during the first 3 to 6 months of relocation.  And sometimes, especially when we actively avoid acclimating, the process can be over year to occur.  

It is like we have that puzzle book in front of us demanding to be completed…all the way through to page 199.  Only then will it release us from the process.

Why does our brain demand that we get this wrapped up?  Because up until this relocation, it had most of life on autopilot.  No extra projects.  Most everything was known and anything that might need to be figured out would be built on what we already knew. 

But NOW…we don’t know.  There are no “standard operating procedures”.  We are literally learning or making up each day and hopefully managing each situation correctly as we go.  

That for the brain is EXHAUSTING!

It doesn’t like chaos ~ it wants a predictive repetitive life.  Remember it likes to conserve energy. So when a lot happens, its natural tendency will be to start shutting down things and stop expelling energy. 

When the habit brain gets exhausted, it starts sending up warning flares most of the time as thoughts designed to shut down activity. You will experience the end results of this as frustration and overwhelm.

If the brain can get you to these emotional states, it has effectively shut down all energies except those like rumination and second guessing.  

Which of course it uses to keep us shut down and safe.

These are exhausting for us…but for the brain it is much easier than dealing with all this new stuff.

So what do we do?  We use a system that the brain can attach to, predictable and consistent that the new information can simply plug into.  By having a predictable path, the brain will not use as much energy and will not resist with such vigor.

Observe ~ Try ~ Choose ~ Acclimate

Though simple, these four steps may need to be walked through a few times to get to a predictable routine or a normal in all areas of life.

Work to Observe

As we enter any new community watch for the many layers. 

Think about how intersections function.  What is initially seen, perhaps traffic lights and a cross walk? What about the rules, can you turn right on red? How are the light triggered, by sensors or by time? Do the vehicles and pedestrian abide by the lights or are they likely to cross any time they like.

When I was in Puerto Rico with a driver it was harrowing because the rules and flow of traffic I expected was not what was represented here.  Many times we charged through a stop sign or even a red light.  

When I asked what was going on he said, “I just watch the traffic. 
The signs and lights are just suggestions.”

Before we can make a life feel normal, we must understand where we are and how it functions.  This can only do this through observation.  Sometimes cultural training is provided when we relocate, however, the bulk of what we need to know is typically learned through experience.

When EXPECTING to learn as we enter a new community, a feeling of curiosity bubbles up.  

Curiosity is driven from a belief that we are going to acquire new information that may be interesting or helpful.

From a place of curiosity, we are likely to seem more of the little details and even begin to see the interpersonal rules that dictate local behavior and actions.  This type of information translate into understanding where we have landed both how things work and how locals communicate and relate to each other.

This will ultimately help us to communicate and relate to them.

Don’t forget to OBSERVE You

As we leave our last home for this new adventure, we change.  How do I know? Because each of my life changes little and big have changed my attitudes, beliefs and even some of what I value.  This is because each time we choose something new, we have change in a way that leads us to choose something new.  

Remember the last time you started a new school or a new job.  Just to step into the new place we have to take on new beliefs about ourselves and the opportunity.  That is change.

During this step be sure to chronical different attitudes, what is seen and how openness and hard nos appear and regress.  In someplace new, we are all likely to be more protective and cautious as we learn more and about it.  Make note of when the brain gets tired and shuts down.  Why is it happening?

Remember again, our brains are trying to get to “normal”.  When they do shutdown, know that nothing has gone wrong.  It is just searching for a quieter place and time to conserve energy.  During these times ask:

Why did I do that?  What would I normally do, before?

Whether a permanent change or just a temporary shift, the more we learn about ourselves and how we work, the better we navigate all of this.

Time to Try

Once the community has been explored and options have been found, both people and things to do, it is time to try on different parts of the community.

One of the best things about relocation is that there is no routine.  There are no established activities or relationships that dictate who we spend time with or what we do.  This clean slate, especially in terms of time, is the perfect opportunity to experiment with everything here.

During this step try on the feeling of openness.

Choosing to feel “open” when engaging with people and trying out different activities and organizations provides a safe space to see if this serves or supports the life desired.  To maintain openness remind yourself that this is only a try.  If it doesn’t serve or support the dream life it will not be continued. 

When trying we are only they to experience, not commit.

Decide Easy

Once observing and trying have been completed, deciding becomes easy.  Like trying all the food at a buffet, once experienced we are able to point to the ones we love and ones we do not ever want taste again.  

My latest relocation to the Dallas area was a long game version of this.  By the time this decision came about, I had lived many different places in the United States, overseas and traveled extensively.  This time, we had the opportunity to live wherever we wanted to live. My choice was the Dallas – Ft. Worth Metroplex area.  After living in many places including here, I knew that this place was one of the easiest for me to live. It met many of my wants and supported the way I and my family wanted to live.

The Observation and Try phases create a cornucopia of options seen and experienced.  

This makes knowing what and who fits and doesn’t fit obvious
and the subsequent decisions clear.

From here we easily build the framework for our lives and daily routine.  This takes us to the doorstep of “normal”.

Acclimate: The Final Change

Acclimation is more than adapting, though it is defined as adapting.  Adapting feels like something I have to do in order to fit in or be accepted.  This potentially means I am not living an authentic life.

Acclimating on the other hand is actively
choosing who we are in the new community,
choosing what to bring into our lives, as well as what we leave on the sidelines…and…choosing how we live as part of the new community.

Acclimation is about creating an interdependent relationship with the people and community as a whole, one where both we and the community benefit and even grow.

It may take a little bit of time. We are replanting and growing whole lives here.

Our brains will naturally resist, even as it is inevitable.

However, when we provide a known process to plug all of this “newness” into our brains can settling into a known process by which all of the newness becomes less threatening and perhaps even an easy process to walk.

I like to imagine sitting my habit brain down in a chair to the side and saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.  You can watch me.”

Observe ~ Try ~ Decide ~ Acclimate


Remember to tell your brain.  “I’ve got this.”


Relocation Life Coaching

If this resonates with you, know that “I get you” and ReloWomen is here to support you through your relocation journey…no matter your stage.

For a deeper dive consider a coaching consultation.  Let’s look at where you have come from, what you imagined this relocation would be and the gap that remains.  By the end of our call you will have a good idea about the bridge that will connect the two.

Click on the Let’s Chat button above.  Choose a day and time that works for you and you will heard and understood by someone who gets you…and the path you have chosen to walk.

It doesn’t have to be this hard.  I can help.

Want more?  I can help.

Let’s Chat about how this can work for you.  Click the button in the top right hand corner.  Choose a day and time that works for you.  By the end you will know more about turning around a bad day and if One on One coaching is for you.

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