Navigating Our New Normal in the Holiday Season
As we all very well know, people across the entire planet, have been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in one way or another, and on several different levels too. The impact of the virus on humans physically is the most obvious impact given the symptoms of the virus impacting the body. However, it’s also impacted society on the mental health level. Some people would even say that there’s a second pandemic in parallel happening around mental health.
There are real concerns with the COVID-19 virus and the fears that go with it are very understandable. People are experiencing different levels and types of fear. From catching the virus, to fear of getting severely sick, or even dying. Then there are fears of being the person who is asymptomatic, passing the virus along to dear family members who have fragile health. The kind of guilt that comes with this situation is monstrous. Then there are financial fears, of losing businesses or jobs. There are plenty more different types of fears, and they seem to continue to stay with us.
This pandemic has taught me that everyone has had a different experience. I have met some people who really thrived with being in lockdown, isolated from society; and others who obviously struggled through that.
I also learned quite a bit about myself during this time. I have discovered that I am resourceful and will do my best, given the circumstances I’m in. Pre-pandemic, I was often found in one of three main locations: at home, the gym (or another type of group exercise facility), or at work. Getting exercise is one of my biggest priorities and I didn’t think I could be someone who would be able to exercise at home, on my own. I was one of those people who kept going to the gym, wearing a mask, and using tons of hand sanitizer, until a couple of days before the governor declared a shut down of the city. To my surprise, I was more adaptable than I thought, using my kitchen counter as barre support (like what they use in ballet), and using everything I had at home for equipment (my laundry detergent as a kettlebell).
I’ve learned to have more empathy for myself and others. It’s truly not an easy time, so I’m constantly putting myself in other people’s shoes and being as respectful as I can, given what I perceive to be their challenges. And I attempt to not make too many assumptions either, without checking with them first! It’s been a fine balance. And then one of the bigger lessons is, how to bring joy and lightness into the heaviness we’re experiencing across the world today. The heaviness isn’t just the pandemic, but all the other tragedies we’ve been witnessing in the past two years.
I have found that with the ability to work from home, I am able to better integrate work into my life, as well as work more efficiently. In most offices I’ve been in, it’s mostly an open office space, which can be distracting, especially when I am on video calls or phone calls. It makes it hard for me to make out what is being said through the call. The ability to work from home has provided me with the capacity to focus, as well as having more flexibility to create a schedule where I can incorporate more self-care that helps me with my energy level, and general well-being.
I want to preface with, this is NOT an easy time and stressing out is definitely not the best course of action, as stress has a negative impact on our bodies and immune system. That said, I do believe this is a rare opportunity for all of humanity to really lean into the edges of our discomforts, and question whether the way we’ve been living is the way we would like to continue to live, or if we want to choose to do something different. One example I can think of, that is happening across corporations, is having the ability and option to work and learn remotely which is life-changing.
With this upcoming holiday season, we need to continue to build resilience and stamina, taking extra care of ourselves, while having lots of compassion.
More than ever, having peace of mind is one of the most important aspects of our lives. Inner peace impacts us in all the different areas of our lives and is worth spending extra energy and intention in nurturing. Peace of mind impacts how I show up for what I have ahead in the day. It impacts how productive I am, my creativity, my mood, my capability to make good choices, my ability to stay calm for a longer length of time, my patience with my pup or other people, my health, and so much more.
Some believed that what is currently happening in the world with the pandemic was going to be short-lived and that we would be able to quickly revert to our old, comfortable ways. However, it has shown us that it’s very much here to stay, and we’ll be integrating this change into our lives, taking us to a new normal. What these last two years have taught me is to continue expanding, learning new ways to integrate into my life, leave behind actions that aren’t helpful or relevant anymore and strive to be flexible and strong, like seaweed in the rocky ocean waves.
It can be very overwhelming when everything around you is changing. It feels like someone is pulling the rug underneath you, and you are no longer on steady ground. On top of that, it’s happening faster than you can count to three! It could also feel as if you’re learning to juggle chainsaws while maintaining your steadiness on the balance beam. At least, this is how it feels for me at times. Most days are steady and level, but then there are days where experiences that normally wouldn’t bother me, set me off over the deep end! In times like this, I take lots of deep breaths and remind myself that this moment will pass, like all others. It seems like movement, whether it’s movement of my body (i.e., stretching, going on a walk, or doing a few yoga poses) or movement to a new physical space, helps to clear the negative, stale energy I was standing in previously. If I’m not able to move to a new environment, then even moving to a different room or different part of the room seems to make a difference. And when things get to be so stressful that none of the items I listed before seem to help, I may even end up crying which ends up relieving some of that stress. I remind myself that I’m doing my best, and when things are getting tough, I tell myself that I graduated to the next level of experiences that are here to help me to expand my patience and inner peace.
What helps me navigate challenging moments with my family is to remind myself that they are people, just like everyone else, with their own worries and are going through the same, but different challenges. I attempt to see them through a new lens as if I haven’t seen this undesired behavior for the millionth time, which brings a level of levity to the situation. I also believe that my family is here to be my ultimate challenge (if I accept and not resist) to take my resilience to the next level, which only serves a higher purpose. I also tell myself that they are quicker to show their not-so-great side because they trust me to still love and fully accept them, despite their shadow sides.
It’s important to come from a place of curiosity and remember that anything other people say or do is not personal, even if you are absolutely sure it is! This truly has helped me tremendously to react less frequently and to put some distance between me and my actions and words. It’s also important to speak up for what you need. Back in January 2021, I adopted a one-and-a-half-year-old pup, thinking it was going to be a piece of cake. All I had to do was feed him, walk him, and love him, and of course, pick up his waste, and I would be all set with a life-long companion! It wasn’t quite this easy. It was very challenging and impacted every aspect of my life. Then a few months ago, at a work meeting, I was introduced to a new process and during that time, I was still getting used to my newly adopted pup, who is very energetic and easily stimulated. I had just come back from the dog park feeling frustrated and upset because my pup got into a disagreement with another pup, leaving me feeling rattled and unsettled. I was unable to focus at my meeting, which was apparent as the lady stated that I appeared to be like a deer in headlights, and I explained to her that this is a whole new process I have not encountered at work and shared with her the challenges that I’d been facing with the new pup. My manager was then brought into the conversation, not to criticize me, but instead to support me while I was learning the new process. I am very lucky to have the type of supportive manager that I have, and it was exactly what I needed to continue my work productively.
So, remember to have lots of grace and patience this holiday season, don’t take things so personally and try to help others who appear to be struggling, and ask for what you need as it may not be so obvious to those around you.
This pandemic has given us the chance to re-evaluate our lives and determine what our values are and the life that we would like to lead from here on out. More than ever, all of humanity needs a little extra love, tenderness, and compassion as we continue to navigate our collective way. Kindness does not cost anything and can be the best investment you’ve ever made in this lifetime.
Have a safe and joy-filled holiday season and remember to stay magical, my friends.