Nobody had any idea in 2019 that the world would come to a screeching halt in 2020. Three months into the new year, the Covid-19 crisis created an “unprecedented time” that pushed us into a “new normal” when the world as we knew it “shut down.”
It was a long journey, but here we are in the middle of 2021 and we can finally say… we made it. The hardest part seems to be over, the world is returning to some semblance of normalcy, and life as we knew it before Covid is returning (albeit a little slower than we all hoped).
It’s a wonderful feeling, right? Yes… and no.
I think it’s safe to say that people are thrilled that pre-Covid norms are at our feet again. Yet at the same time, people are also experiencing things like anxiety and worry at the thought of going back to “normal.” It’s true that Covid made life very difficult. But, it turns out that there are some positive things we gained from the crisis as well… things that are worth keeping as the world opens up again, and people are hesitant to let go of those valuable lessons.
Here are 3 positive lessons that we at Counseling Works are taking away from this once in a lifetime experience of Covid-19.
1 – How to Slow Down
When the world was shut down, it felt like we were living in slow motion. We had to learn to exist without all of the social commitments that filled so much of our lives – things like happy hours with co-workers, weekend soccer games for our kids, and even family gatherings. Life suddenly got very quiet and most of us were forced to find new ways to fill our time. It’s no surprise that hobbies like knitting, puzzles, gardening, and even making your own sourdough bread suddenly soared in popularity. One thing all of those hobbies have in common is they require you to slow down, be mindful and present in the moment, and just be without any distractions.
The pandemic gave us an opportunity to experience firsthand how valuable it is to slow down and be mindful – it decreases stress, helps rejuvenate your energy, and boosts your brain by giving it some downtime. As you begin to return to your normal life, we encourage you to find ways to create some space in your daily routine to slow down. You can try things like:
- Waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to meditate
- Scheduling two or three daily “down time” sessions in your calendar to give yourself time to contemplate and reflect on the day
- Being intentional with your lunch hour – use that time to get out of the office (even if it’s your home office), to go outside, sit in the sunshine, or take a walk through the neighborhood
- Turning off the TV and creating a nightly routine that you can do each night before bed
2 – Setting and Respecting Boundaries
People had to make difficult decisions during Covid based on their own personal risk assessment. We all experienced times when we turned down plans or avoided loved ones because we didn’t feel safe, which means everybody had to get really good at setting boundaries with each other.
Boundaries play an important role in our mental well-being. Many of us don’t set them as often as we should because we’re afraid of disappointing people, have a fear of missing out, or feel guilty saying no. The pandemic, however, forced us to confront our struggles with boundary-setting head-on and gave many of us the motivation to start setting them. We encourage you to embrace this lesson in boundary-setting and continue to set healthy boundaries with people in your life. You can try some of these techniques to set boundaries with friends, family, neighbors, and even co-workers:
- If you feel compelled to say yes when you really want to say no, try saying “not right now…”
- Give yourself permission to limit your social activities each week – when you hit your limit, it’s okay to say no to other invitations
- Let people know how much time you have beforehand, whether it’s a phone call with your mom, a meeting with a colleague, or lunch with a friend… it’s okay to say “I’m so glad we could meet! Just an FYI, I only have 45 minutes today…”
- Try out different ways of saying no, like “No thanks, I’m good,” “Thank you, but I’m going to pass,” “I’m so sorry but I’m not able to,” or “I would love to but I can’t right now”
3 – Making Lemonade Out of Lemons
The pandemic created some really difficult situations. We had to isolate ourselves from our loved ones, cancel vacations and weddings, miss holidays with friends or family, and dramatically limit our favorite activities. As tough as it was, people also took this opportunity to get creative and really learned how to take lemons and make lemonade!
Covid taught us that life definitely doesn’t always go as planned and that skills like flexibility, the ability to go with the flow, and creative problem-solving are necessary to cope with life’s ups and downs. Here are some of the creative things people did during Covid that might be helpful to carry into the future:
- Virtual get-togethers were all the rage during the pandemic. Even though Zoom fatigue is real (and honestly, we all have it), don’t throw it out completely. You can still use virtual gatherings to stay connected with loved ones near and far.
- Working from home is common now. Work environments have a lot more flexibility than they did before Covid, especially around working virtually. Your company might not let you do it 5 days a week now, but you can always ask and see if it’s something you can take advantage of every once in a while.
- Tapping into your creative outlet. Whether it was cooking, painting, learning a new language, or taking virtual music lessons, people passed the time by connecting with their creative side. Creativity actually sparks brain activity and helps boost your energy, so it’s definitely something that will benefit you as you move on.
You Can Create Your New “New Normal”
Covid changed everything and now it’s time to be intentional and deliberate as life changes back. You get to decide exactly what you want your life to look like now – what you want to focus on, where you want to put your energy, and how you want to spend your time. As you get ready to dip your toe (or dive) back into the life you had before Covid, we encourage you to reflect on these 3 lessons. Also reflect on other lessons that you learned during the crisis, and think about how you will carry them with you into your future. And if you need some extra support to help you with it, reach out and schedule an appointment with a Counseling Works therapist. We’re in this with you and are here to help.