Well-Being in a Post-Pandemic World
Many of us are finally uncrossing our fingers and beginning to do things like leave our houses regularly, drop children off at an actual school building, and hug folks without a sense of danger. Hope is in the air.
But like so much about the pandemic – it’s complicated. We also likely have a sense of loss, a literal grief for the lives and health stolen by COVID-19, a disappointment about our financial circumstances, or simply the feeling that we had an unpredictable respite from our usual daily mania and now that it’s time to fire up the engines again, we’re not sure we can. Ideally, we don’t need a pandemic to ask ourselves, “Is this how I want to live my life?” But if a pandemic is what allows us to find some answers, well…
On the personal development side of COVID– in terms of health, self-care, and life priorities – three questions leap out:
What was working for me before COVID?
Things in this category might include social nourishment, financial/career success, identity reinforcement and affirmation, the stimulation of new adventures like travel and educational activities. Many of us had effectively stacked habits before the pandemic. We went to the gym on the way home from work. While the kids were at soccer practice, we walked around the field with a friend, enjoying connection and sunshine. When there was suddenly no work or no soccer practice, we were at odds. Getting structure back or building it anew may be the number one priority for many folks to cultivate routine healthy behaviors.
What worked for me during COVID?
Not to dismiss the awfulness COVID brought, but we should also ask, “What did we learn about ourselves?” We’ve overheard lots of people acknowledging what they valued – long walks outside, quality time with young people usually consumed with college, the discovery of an unknown introversion. Some folks have made major life decisions in the past year, and COVID played a role in shaping their path. The vast majority of us had more time or space in some regard, a surreal suspension of lives years in the making. Exploring how that felt and what about it was truly a blessing rather than a curse is helpful. Where were the gifts and can we extend their benefits into our future?
What do I feel strongly will work for me now, and how do I make sure it happens?
Experts and philosophers among us identify one of the vaguest but arguably most important opportunities now: to make sure we change for the better. Our own individual health and self-care is an obvious place to start. Mixing some pre-quarantine habits along with some lessons from isolation, along with, perhaps, something completely new, is a high-potential strategy for maximizing personal growth and wellness. Mindfulness and intentionality are the mitigators of the chaotic rush of “normal” life; without them, we find ourselves back on auto, shuttling through the gauntlet of obligations in an unthinking fog, but feeling, sooner or later, not quite right. Waking up one morning after a string of days free from novel viruses, we might pause just before the alarm blares and ask: “Is this how I want to live my life?”
Our health is a deep and vast thing, encompassing choices about how we spend our time, deal with our emotions, and navigate our high-paced culture. May we continue to protect it.