Your inner superhero can wait. Right now, just be yourself.

The great thing about a crisis is that it reveals our real priorities in life. Those things you’re holding together right now with your bare hands, some duct tape and the last vestiges of your patience? Those are the things that really matter to you.

What you thought your priorities were before the pandemic and what you’ve discovered your priorities actually are may surprise you.

Some of your priorities will make you feel great. Like your own personal Statue of Liberty, they will shine like beacons of truth and virtue lighting your way forward through the darkness.

For example, I am proud of that fact that I remain dedicated to giving my students (I’m a music teacher by trade) a positive and uplifting experience each time we meet despite my own pandemic-related woes and the challenges of remote teaching.

Other things you discover will feel less like beacons of virtue and more like that recurring dream where you’re standing naked in front of your sixth grade class. You’re embarrassed and simply want to run for cover and hide.

Case in point: I was chagrined to discover that my desire for the latest fashions (and ability to acquire them, thank you very much) continued unabated, even in the midst of a freaking global pandemic. I simply (seamlessly!) shifted from regular trips to the store to browsing onlinestoreofmychoice.com - and, voilá! (Early on, when yet another package landed on our doorstep, my husband observed wryly, “Well, you seem to have mastered the online shopping thing pretty well.”).

Woman holding credit card shops on a laptop

My parents must be so proud.

Of course, it isn’t that I don’t care about all those who are suffering more than I am. I truly do (and am putting my time and resources where my mouth is). I simply (apparently) want to offer compassion and assistance while still stylin’.

My point is that now might not be a good time to try to live up to your highest standards or reach for a challenging goal. If doing so means pushing yourself too hard and creating more stress, I recommend you give yourself lots of grace now and table the priority upgrades for later. Regular life is hard enough at this time. (If you’re determined to try anyway, read this first.)

Maybe for now you just pay attention and take notes. Pretend you are a social scientist whose job is to make observations for future consideration and use. If you decide to try to transform your life when things calm down, these observations will come in handy. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How has the pandemic helped confirm priorities I already knew I held?
  • What priorities have emerged that surprise me?
  • What do my priorities say about me that I like?
  • What do my priorities say about me that I’d like to change?

A crisis has a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. The real stuff comes front and center and the less important stuff falls away.

Woman gazes out window thoughtfully

For example, pre-pandemic I would have said that losing weight was a top priority for me. Now, if I squint really hard, I can barely make it out at the bottom of my to-do list. It lands well below more necessary priorities like safeguarding my mental health, working to reduce stress in my life, and finding ways to live and give fully in turbulent times.

Giving up carbs and wine in service to weight loss was difficult before the pandemic. Now, I’m not even going to seriously try. If that means getting cozy with those extra pounds, so be it.

Woman laying back in chair with a glass of wine

The thing is, by the time my work day ends at 7:30 and I can finally slip into my pajamas, all I want is to hunker down with my family, have some dinner and follow it up with a chaser of Doritos and a glass of wine (or two). And possibly a cookie.

But I’m still paying attention. What my pajamas/Doritos/wine ritual tells me about myself is that I need to end the day strong. Even if the day has been total crap, if I can spend the last two hours of it relaxed and happy, my faith in the Universe is somewhat restored and I can live to fight another day. And honestly, that should be what’s most important to all of us right now.

Nonetheless, I'm following my own advice: I'm paying attention. What I've learned about myself is really important information that I need to keep in mind when I get back on my weight loss journey. Perhaps I’ll find a less caloric option for decompressing at the end of the day. In the meantime, at least until this pandemic nonsense is behind us, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to pry the chips and hooch out of my cold, dead hands.

Woman holds cup of coffee as dawn rises

Right now, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, go easy. Maybe this is the time to let your real priorities in life just be, warts and all. (That is, unless some of your behaviors are making your life worse, in which case an urgent change is probably necessary).

Survive and thrive as best you can, my friends. And be nice to yourself. Nobody expects perfection from anyone right now.

Just be sure to take notes. Possibly with a glass of wine in hand.