The new normal. When this phrase was coined in 2020, in the middle of the worst pandemic our generation has seen in living memory, it signified a hopeful new world. Our collective imagination thought up a post-COVID era that would be marked by changes, both good and bad. We imagined a brave new world which would take the lessons of the pandemic to heart, and move towards a better global future. And then came 2021. The second and third waves of the pandemic delayed our move towards the new normal, but it didnt dent our dreams. We bore the brunt of every new curveball 2021 threw our way, adapting to changes quickly, thanks to the pandemics lessons.Finally, 2022 came along. We were cautious about meeting the new normal in 2022, for sure. But, the silver lining of 2022 has been that we finally got to see what the new normal actually looks like. Looking back, this has been a year with highs and lows for all of us. Heres everything 2022 brought back into our lives in the form of the new normal.COVID-19 Transformed From A Pandemic To Endemic2022 was the year when COVID-19 went from being a pandemic to an endemic. An endemic is a diseaseusually an infectionthat is regularly found among certain populations or areas. Some diseases that are endemic are malaria, chickenpox, polio, hepatitis and the common cold. Endemics can also have peak months, like autumn and winter are for respiratory infections. So, quite like these diseases, you have to continue to take vaccinations and preventive measures against COVID-19and if you do get the disease, it could lead to complications depending on your immune system, comorbidities and other things. Currently, the biggest threat of COVID-19 surges are related to mutated variants like Delta and BF.7 (which is wreaking havoc in China once again). But the presence of COVID-19 variants, hopefully, wont be impacting your life to the level it did in 2020, or even 2021, as long as you take precautions. That way, 2022 was such an improvement!But We Had New Issues To Deal WithThe fallout of the pandemic didnt just impact the health sector. In fact, every economy of the world faced economic crises. The World Bank says that all central banks across the world have simultaneously hiked interest rates with a degree of synchronicity not seen over the past five decades. This trend is likely to continue through to 2023. The global core inflation on the other hand is expected to be about five per cent in 2023 which is nearly double the five-year average before the pandemic, according to their recent study. Compounded further by the Russia-Ukraine war and other political conflicts with economic ramifications, experts say that a global recession is quite likely to hit in 2023.Mental Health Became The Most Pressing IssueWhile mental health has been emerging slowly as one of the biggest health concerns in the last decade, the pandemic really put it on our priority list. A big reason for this, as the World Health Organisation points out, is that essential health services for mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the hardest hit. Multiple studies have also pointed out the deep impact the pandemic had on our collective and individual stress levels as a reason for this spike. The 2022 annual Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor also found that while 47 per cent people still worried the most about COVID, 36 per cent ranked mental health as their next top concern. In fact, this was the first time mental health concerns ranked higher than cancer concerns (34 per cent) and even obesity (22 per cent) in an Ipsos study!Schools Offices Finally ReopenedNo matter what your age, the majority of 2020 and even 2021 were probably spent indoors, working from home. Whether you were in school, college or any educational institution, chances are you barely ever met your classmates and teachers. The same goes for most office-workers with non-essential jobswe barely met anybody from work. While schools and offices opened for a while in 2021, they had to be shut again due to the third wave of COVID. In 2022 however, schools opened full time, and most offices either opened full time or in hybrid mode. While transitioning back to offline work mode was not easy, for many, this was a relief and gave a boost to social camaraderie.Festivities Turned Full-Fledged AgainRemember the festivals in 2020? No? Thats probably because festivities of all sorts were extremely low-key for the most part of both 2020 and 2021. Given that the pandemic spread faster in crowds, public celebrations of religious festivals and occasions like weddings had severe limitations put on them. In 2022, all this changed. Whether it was Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai, Dussehra-Diwali in North India, or Durga Puja in Bengal, every major festivity pulled the crowds back with a vengeance. Weddings not only became full-fledged three-four-days-long affairs again, but the trend of destination weddings also got a much-needed chance of making a comeback.Vacations Travel Went Back To Normal2020 was a horrifying time with trains, flights, metros, buses and even auto services at a standstill for months. Even when services resumed, they were staggered and with a hundred restrictions in place. People travelling by flights and trains had to produce negative RT-PCR tests and vaccination certificates. In 2022, all these travel restrictions were removed, to the relief of all travellers. This not only gave a boost to demands for long-distance travel, but also made family, friend and workplace trips easier to organise. The fact that the tourism industry got a much-needed boost too is undeniable.Sporting Events Became Truly Global (And Crowded) AgainFrom the Olympics and Paralympics getting postponed in 2020 to restricted participation in 2021, the sporting world had a lot to deal with thanks to the pandemic. With restrictions lessened in 2022, we were once again able to cheer for our national teams in sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, cricket world cups (both for men and women). The major tennis events like Wimbledon and the US Open also resumed with full global coverage. The year is certainly ending on a high with the FIFA World Cup drawing in a global audience. To say that the sporting world has resumed its functions in the new normal in 2022 is not an understatement at all.