As many families are focussed on moving out of the pandemic uncertainty and are holding out strong hope for the return to “normal”, let’s take time to examine exactly what normal is, and whether or not we really want to return there anyway.
We can start by spending some time reflecting on the pandemic experience. From those first uncertain days of shock and denial, moving to some anger and sadness, and finally landing on acceptance, we all have travelled a sometimes bumpy road. No two journeys have been the same. What can we learn from all of this? Over 18 months of an unprecedented, unpredictable and unbelievable ride has to have taught us all some life lessons.
In no way do we need to diminish the tough stuff. We have gone through so much. These times have been (and still are) heavy. Don’t be afraid to sit with whatever emotion strikes you when you reflect on life since March, 2020. You may be thinking about the virus and it’s victims. You may be grieving losses. You may be mourning the loss of the life you had before this pandemic hit. You may be overwhelmed, confused and angry by the ever-changing rules and codes of conduct. All of that is ok. Lean into those emotions from time to time. Whether it means crying, journaling, venting with a friend, expressing your emotions through creative pursuits, or working up a sweat in the gym, please allow yourself to feel the feels. But once you allow yourself to “feel those feels”, think about giving yourself and your family the opportunity to reframe the pandemic as a positive.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Identify the A-ha moments when you realized the way in which you were living and the choices you were making just didn’t fit for you anymore and were not really working for you or your family. For example, think about times when you felt relieved by the pandemic. You didn’t have to rush around from sport, to activity, to event, to a meeting. You could just exist, in your home, with your family, and slow the heck down. Did you have moments during the pandemic when you said to yourself: “I kinda like this pace”, or “I don’t miss going to…, or seeing…?” Ask yourself: are there priorities I had, obligations I maintained, relationships I held on to that are just not that important to me or my family any more?
Think about the teachable moments that occurred that allowed you to learn more about yourself, your family relationships and your connections. These moments could be as simple as learning you forgot how much you loved to cook, or knit, or read, or build things, to learning that your family benefits from scheduled time together to share a meal, play together, talk, or have family meetings to check in. Did these teachable moments actually help you focus on what you want for your family? Did you gain some clarity on personal and family values? Did you learn more about what each of your kids respond to? How did you re-discover the necessity of prioritizing yourself?
Engage in goal setting for the future, both for yourself and for your family. Now that you have gained some clarity about your wants and needs, ask yourself:
- What do I want to prioritize?
- What do I no longer need?
- Who do I want to spend my time with?
- How do I want to dole out my energy?
- What are my values?
This list of questions is by no means exhaustive! But once you are clear on the answers, you can work on creating concrete goals to hold yourself accountable and make these changes a reality.
Part of setting goals is making sure they are SMART:
Specific: you know exactly what needs to be done
Measurable: you are clear on how you will measure success
Attainable: it is something you can actually do within a reasonable time frame
Realistic: it can be achieved with the resources you have
Timely: it has a deadline for achievement
Here’s an example: I will commit to spending 20 minutes a day knitting so that I can make a sweater for myself by December 1.
Be kind to yourself! Identifying, clarifying and settling on new habits is not easy. The journey isn’t going to be perfect. However, let’s all agree that if nothing else, the pandemic has taught us that we need to adapt, foster resilience and be kind to ourselves each and every day.
Let’s commit to using the fall to identify what we have learned (and continue to learn) from the pandemic and figure out how we are going to apply these lessons to our families and our lives going forward. If you want to discuss these concepts further, learn more about yourself and what you want, and where you are going, reach out. We can help. Our therapists are wonderful listeners and are very skilled at asking the right questions to bring you clarity. And hey, maybe you’ll agree that this pandemic thing hasn’t been all bad!