Are we really getting back to "normal?" Who knows what might happen, though it's worth remembering what's truly important before we throw ourselves back into the world.
With many restrictions still in place with variations both worldwide and in the UK, many are seeing a return to at least some level of normality. If the last year or so has taught us anything, it’s that who knows what could happen down the line, but with cautious optimism, we can only hope that things continue to improve.
Rather than think of this as perhaps one of the most over-used and cliched phrases of recent times (“the new normal…” sick bag anybody?), there will come a time when things will absolutely feel ‘normal’ once again. The challenge is, what will that normal look like for you? We’re well used to ‘challenge’ by now, and getting back to normal is going to bring its own unique challenges.
Fourteen months ago, we needed a lot of time and adjustment to slow down, so it’s only natural that speeding back up again has the potential to be just as challenging.
Some of us are bound to be excited and will want to take advantage straight away, and others might find it harder. A YouGov poll of over 1500 adults found that half will find it hard to re-adjust to normal life.
It may be that for some of us, our lives before March 2020 had a lot going on that we might be better off without…
- Reintroducing ourselves to the overwhelm of social life.
- Joining the hustle and bustle that comes with the daily commute.
- The mental and social anxiety that comes with shared office space.
Before diving in and getting back to normal, it’s the perfect time to intentionally reflect on what we will and will not go back to.
Be Kind to Yourself (and others)
We can sometimes find it easier to be kind to others, forgetting about the importance of being kind to ourselves. We talk to ourselves in ways that we wouldn’t dream of talking to others. In the words of Naomi Judd, our bodies hear what our mind says. Particularly during tough and challenging times, we feel the pressure to be perfect. Remember that it’s okay to have an off day; rather than beat yourself up about it, give yourself time and go easy.
When it comes to being kind to others, keep in mind that we mask a huge amount to appear strong and capable to those around us. We generally have little to no idea what is going on for anyone else. Not only do we all see and perceive the world in very different ways, when it comes to getting back to normal, everyone is going to be experiencing a huge range of varying thoughts, feelings and emotions about it. Be forgiving – particularly when you don’t understand the reasoning behind actions – and show positive intent that you are there for others.
With your social calendar likely to be filling up again, many of us will be feeling the pressure to be there for absolutely everyone. If this time has reminded us of anything, it’s perhaps just who in our lives is most precious to us that we want to spend our quality time with. Rather than feel guilty about saying no, see it as a way to not only care for your wellbeing, but also help yourself to reacclimatise gently as you get back to normal.
Keep it short and sweet
Rather than go around the houses and provide an elaborate explanation, say no by keeping it brief and to the point. It’s not always necessary to apologise. After all, what are we apologising for: taking care of ourselves?
Tell the truth
A good rule of thumb for life is to keep things as close to the truth as possible! That feeling of being caught out in a lie – even if it’s a little white one – can be horrible and damaging to relationships. The other downside that less of us realise, is that lying about the reason we can’t do something, can indicate that we’re not truly at peace with our own decision.
Listen and learn
When you turn down an invite, be sure to reflect on what’s going on for you. What thoughts and feelings are you noticing? What signals is your body sending to you? Feelings of relief can reassure us that we made the right decision for our wellbeing and mental health. Whereas consider those times when you do attend that event because you felt pressurised or guilty. You may be kicking yourself for giving in. Listen and learn, and then adapt for next time.
Take Time for Yourself
We’ve all heard the ever-so-slightly cheesy ‘fit your own mask before helping others’, yet so many of us still consider self-care as selfish, when in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth, particularly when we’re helping ourselves to get back to normal. When we take care of ourselves, we are also taking care of those around us.
Saying ‘no’ to the onslaught of social events is one way to begin taking time for yourself, though what then becomes important is what we choose to do with that time.
Self-care varies between each of us. Yes, it might be recharging our batteries with a quick nap, a little bit of mindfulness or sneaking in a quick break from all the people-ing, but take it a little deeper to really understand what works for you. Self-care is ultimately about getting clear on your priorities and protecting these with boundaries.
Perhaps one of our next challenges will be continuing to make self-care a priority as we get back to normal.
Have you taken the time to reflect on how your world can and will be different, rather than simply getting back to normal? For further support, I recently wrote about focusing on what to keep from what this time has taught us.