This past year was incredibly stressful, as well as full of loss and grief for most of us. However, it also gave many of us the opportunity to do some things that better supported our well-being. For example, I have heard from clients that they have been sleeping more, cooking more and more healthily, exercising more, and spending more time with their families. The limitations of the pandemic also forced most of us to simplify our lives and slow down, enjoying more downtime at home.
I know for myself, there are a couple things I have really appreciated over this past 15 months. I have been pleasure reading much more. And my husband and I have been walking most afternoons to keep me from going crazy and to get us out of the house. These walks have also been a nice time for us to chat and connect, and I have valued them.
As things are reopening, I am as excited as most to start re-engaging with activities that helped my life feel larger and more enjoyable pre-pandemic. I also find myself wondering how I am going to maintain some of these special things I have gained in my life during the pandemic and how I am going to re-enter life going forward.
While there is much we lost and missed from last year, many of us discovered ways of living that we appreciate and which benefit us. I am hoping that we do not just jump back into living our past life because it is familiar and known. Just because something is comfortable and familiar does not mean it is necessarily positive for us.
My hope is that we will re-enter our lives thoughtfully and mindfully. Through the pandemic, we have been given an extremely rare and valuable opportunity. We have paused living our lives and now have the possibility to take a step back, having gained some distance from how we used to live. This will allow us to carefully determine how we want to live now. What activities do we want to keep? What people do we continue to value? How do we feel that spending our time works best for us?
These three steps can help you move forward and re-configure your life in a thoughtful, optimal way:
1) Take some time, even 10 minutes, and reflect on what you appreciated about this pandemic time. What were your grateful for in how you were living? What have you learned that supports your well-being? Have you been exercising more? Eating better? Sleeping more? Socializing less and enjoying having more downtime? Doing more pleasure reading? Playing games or taking walks with your family? Write down the things that you have been grateful for over the past 15 months.
2) Prioritize these activities and determine the 2 or 3 that you most value and want to keep in your life. Schedule them in your life, on your calendar. Hold space in your life for these activities. Perhaps they will not occur as often as they did during the pandemic, but how can you schedule and keep them? For example, perhaps you were walking daily. Can you now schedule 3 walks in your week? Maybe you enjoyed game-night with your kids several times a week. Can you now make a ritual or routine where one night, perhaps Fridays, will be game night? Hold time in your weekly schedule for these 2 or 3 things that you value and want to maintain as life opens up. Put these priorities in your schedule first.
3) As options and additions come up and you have more activities you can attend- eg. social events, sports for your children- consider in a mindful way what you want to add back in. Will this activity or person feed your spirit or support your health, mentally or physically? Also, learn to say no and value yourself and your time. You do not need an excuse. You can say, “Thanks so much, but that doesn’t work.” Or you can give yourself some space to consider the invitation and say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” And do just that- check your schedule and your gut and determine if you have time and desire to add this activity back in to your life.
This global pandemic was a once-in-a-lifetime event, that changed the world at a global level, and changed each of our lives in a very individual way. While there has been much loss and suffering, it is OK to acknowledge that some of the changes in your life might have been valuable and even necessary to your overall well-being. By being mindful and reflecting honestly on the changes you’ve experienced in the last year, you might discover new habits or hobbies that you wish to keep as a part of your life, even as the world begins to reopen. Take some time to follow the steps described above thoughtfully. Allow yourself to add experiences into your life that you truly want to welcome back, while prioritizing and valuing the pandemic-inspired habits that you want to keep. This unique time of re-engagement allows us to rebuild our lives in a deliberate way that can be even better and more fulfilling than the unexamined lives we once had.
I would love to hear your experiences. Reach out to me in the comments below or on Facebook or LinkedIn and tell me what one pandemic-inspired habit or hobby you would like to keep in your life.