Re-imagining your normal
So, as we head towards ‘normal’ and whatever that looks like, how do you hold on to some of the new-found pleasures and habits that you discovered in lockdown. And if you have been reflecting on what lies ahead, how can you put into place the things you desire.
Now, firstly, I want to say: it’s OK if you didn’t discover any new passions, habits or schedules that you want to keep. If you want it all to just be done with and get back to what you knew before, that is absolutely fine.
This time has been different for each one of us, and if you have been juggling work with family and other responsibilities over the last few weeks, chances are your list of things to keep doing or start doing isn’t that long.
But maybe, just maybe, there are things you’re experiencing that you would like a bit more of. Maybe enjoying the family time, earlier nights due to lack of social engagements, maybe a little more time in the garden.
Maybe some of you have rediscovered old hobbies and passions, maybe you learnt a new skill, or reconnected with old friends and you’d like to dedicate a bit more time to these once we’re out of the woods. Or maybe you spent some time reflecting and have started to form a picture of what life could look like after lockdown.
So if you did discover something about you and the way you’d like to live, you may be wondering how to hold onto it when the busy-ness kicks in. It was a question raised in my webinar recently, and I felt it needed a more detailed response than I gave at the time.
So here goes….
1. Be clear on what it is you want to retain and why
If this is something you really want, it pays to be specific. Lay out exactly what the goal is.
Ask yourself if you can frame it in a positive way – something positive to achieve rather than stating what you want to avoid.
For example: ‘I want to create more meaningful family time at the weekend’ rather than ‘I don’t want to rush around so much’.
And define why this is important to you. Don’t skimp this part. It doesn’t need to be an earth shattering reason. Keep it simple and keep it heartfelt.
For example: ‘Because it has filled my heart to be able to get to know my family better in the time we’ve had together, and I am looking forward to strengthening our relationships.’
2. Ask yourself what is likely to stop you from achieving this
It is important to pre-empt what might in your way, and some of the excuses that may pop up. Making change isn’t easy. Let’s be clear about that. So understanding all the whys and wherefores beforehand will help you to move forward and recognise any of the barriers to change.
For example: if you have enjoyed going for evening walks, you may feel that when you start commuting again, you’ll be too tired in the evening, or demands on your time at home will be too high.
Recognising these barriers will help you move through point 3.
3. Think about how you could retain some of it.
How does this change fit in with the rest of your life? Consider schedules, other activities that may come back online, ways of life that will kick in. So even if you can’t keep it up at the same rate as lockdown, how can you still retain some of it, or build it in to your life in a step by step way?
It doesn’t need to be all or nothing, you can make change incrementally, but you have to know how you’re going to do this.
For example: let’s say you have enjoyed eating dinner as a family but usually you don’t get home from work until 5pm when you end up cooking something quick for the children, then eating later with your partner. How might you continue to have some family meals? You might consider dedicating Saturday and Sunday to family dinners to start with; or plan for two family-friendly slow-cooker recipes a week that will be ready for you all to eat together when you get home.
Even increasing what you enjoy doing by a small amount can positively impact your health & wellbeing – and in turn, that of those around you.
In some cases you may need to consider a compromise or giving up something else to make way for this new thing. This is OK. It’s ok to let go of things that are no longer serving you or others in your family. And remember: if this new activity or approach is going to help your overall wellbeing, it is worth it. If you have a strong wellbeing foundation in place, you’ll be better placed to undertake everything else in your life.
If the changes impact others, sit down with them to explain why. If they understand the full reason behind you wanting to do this, they may be able to help you achieve it – or at the very least, not stand in your way. It will also enable you to start a conversation around wellbeing with your children.
4. Then think even more about the how!
Having good intentions is one thing, but it is the action that is going to make this happen.
Have you ever said something like ‘I’m going to get healthy next month and I’ll start by eating more vegetables’ but then it hasn’t happened? You had the goal and the how. But you didn’t have the detail spelt out. You didn’t figure out a meal plan, you didn’t figure out how these extra veggies were going to get into your diet, you didn’t list which veggies you wanted to eat, or what day you were going to shop for them. So life went on as normal.
Drill right down to the details to consider what needs to happen on a day to day basis to achieve your goal – materials if it’s a craft, reminders if it’s a new habit, becoming part of a group if it’s a new skill. Think about when you’re going to do it, where, how, and what you need.
For example: if you’ve taken up a new hobby, perhaps a craft: list what materials and equipment you need to have to hand so it's easy for you to pick up once life gets busy; find the store that supplies what you need; consider if a dedicated space in the home would be helpful and when you could sort that out; decide when in the week you could focus on your craft.
Speak to other household members to explain what you’re planning, and ask them to get behind your idea. The devil really is in the detail.
5. Write it down
If after going through this process you feel your goal is not attainable as soon as we get back to ‘normal’, I encourage you to nevertheless write it down, note down any ideas or references that would be useful to look at again in the future, and most importantly describe how you felt in lockdown, what benefits this activity/habit brought, and once again why you want to make this happen.
Put that piece of paper somewhere prominent so it doesn’t get lost, so it serves as a reminder of what you’re striving for. One day you’ll decide today’s the day!
It’s good to remember that health & wellbeing is a journey.
A journey we are all on for life.
Let’s challenge ourselves, but let’s enjoy it too.
Let’s do our best, but remember to be kind to ourselves.
You’re not super human.
You’re YOU. Be YOU, and be proud of it!
Now let’s nail this lockdown thing and in the meantime start imagining our new normal, a life full of health and happiness.