"In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to." ~ Dave Hollis
These times are stressful and weird. We’re all feeling nostalgic for normal life. But every hardship carries with it opportunity, and if you’re the type of person who enjoys and functions best with lots of quiet time in your own space, in some ways the stay-at-home mandate might have you feeling happier now than you've felt in a long time.
Though this pandemic certainly presents its challenges, in some ways your life might be easier right now. When things are normal, many of us feel stuck in a cycle of perpetual exhaustion and overwhelm. Maybe now there are fewer demands on your time. Maybe you're able to get more sleep and have time for activities that relax you and give you a joy boost.
This is the perfect time to make a plan for how you'll maintain some of the benefits of social distancing when normal life returns.
Now, maybe you're simply in survival mode right now and have no energy to make a plan for the future. I totally get it. Just keep on keepin' on, sister. If that's the case, I'd like to kindly suggest you bookmark this blog and come back to it when the time is right.
Because life has changed so much and so quickly for everyone, we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-invent a personal and societal new normal. No-one is expecting life to go back exactly the way it was. With everything in flux, a change in your habits or behavior that might raise eyebrows under normal circumstances might not be such a big deal right now.
It’s easier to avoid giving an automatic “yes” to a request from your boss when it’s made by email rather than when they’re standing in your office. It’s easier to avoid getting sucked into serving on the school committee if the committee has put its activities on hold for now. It’s easier to sleep in if you don’t have a commute.
In fact, you might be worried that the end of social distancing means going back to a life that is in some ways worse than life under social distancing; a life again full of overwhelm and exhaustion. You worry that you’ll step back into an existence where there’s no time for any of the relaxing or fun activities you have time for now.
As we collectively figure out what new normal looks like, you can take the following steps to make life less stressful and more fulfilling for your future self.
Gain clarity. Take stock of the activities that were part of your “old normal” way of doing things. What things do you genuinely miss? What things do you not miss? What activities have you discovered or rediscovered during this time that relax you or bring you joy?
Consider the value of things both big and small. Do you really miss your morning Starbucks run, or do you now think your day would be better if you spent those 15 minutes at home having a quiet cup of joe before heading to a busy day at the office? Is it time to plan an exit strategy from your
sentence service as Girl Scout Cookie Mom, or do you find you find you really miss serving in that way? Are you surprised to realize that you miss hanging out with your coworkers for happy hour, or is it an activity you now realize saps energy without providing much value?
Lay groundwork. Let’s say that working from home is a new thing for you, and you’ve discovered you like it: you feel more relaxed, and are more focused and productive when doing your work out of the office.
What can you do now to prepare for one or two days of working from home post-social distancing? Maybe you make an effort to highlight the quality of work you produce while working from home, or check with human resources to learn more about work from home policies.
Communicate effectively. Communicating clearly about change that will affect others is critical. It’s not only considerate to engage others, but they will be more likely to support you if you give them a chance to weigh in and get used to the change.
People are also more likely to buy-in and help you make this change if they feel there is some benefit for them. Explain why the change is important to you, and work collaboratively so everyone benefits from change in some way.
Where family is concerned, ask family members what changes they desire for themselves and think about making changes that benefit more than one person. Can you agree to order take-out once or twice a week so no-one has to cook dinner or clean up, freeing everyone up to something more enjoyable with that time? Or maybe keep “movie night” or “tech free” dinnertime as a family activity post-social distancing.
If your plan to work from home more frequently could affect co-workers, let everyone affected know that you will be responsive to emails, IM and calls during core business hours when at home and will use video to call into meetings so your presence is felt.
Identify necessary steps. If you’d like to bow out of your role as Cookie Mom, talk to the person who expressed interest in the role awhile back and see if they’re still interested. If you want to take an evening class, talk to your spouse to figure out a budget solution and a plan for managing dinner and evening chores in your absence.
Prepare to protect necessary space and time. Part of making room for a change is learning to say no to requests for your time and energy that aren’t as valuable to you as other activities. If saying no is difficult for you, use the remaining weeks of social distancing to adopt and practice a strategy for saying no.
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There’s no doubt that this is a difficult time for all of us. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t, and formulate a plan to make meaningful changes going forward.
Doing so will steer us in the direction of post-traumatic growth - a sense that we can grow and improve our lives in the face of unwanted and challenging circumstances - and away from the effects of post-traumatic stress.
We have an unprecedented opportunity for radical and positive change before us. Let’s make the most of it!