Before COVID-19, we glorified being busy, chalking up our stress and fatigue to “normal” side effects of the hustle and bustle of daily life. When the world stopped and we were no longer able to participate in our daily routines as we knew them, something interesting happened – we were forced to stop and evaluate whether the chaos of our day-to-day lives was actually fulfilling.
Those who would stay at the office late and miss dinner with their family were finally able to join them at the dinner table. Those who always said they were too busy to exercise were finally able to carve out an hour each morning for a walk around the neighborhood. Those who always wanted to learn how to cook were finally able to spend time in the kitchen.
Essentially, many people realized they now had the opportunity to take stock of what matters to them and what fills them with joy. By working through the grief we are collectively experiencing – both for the people we’ve lost and the lives we built for ourselves – we can rediscover the aspects of our lives we want to focus on, including finding a renewed appreciation for the “little things,” and what we’d rather leave in the time before COVID.
The “little things” that often went overlooked
The sound of birds chirping outside your bedroom window… The smell of freshly brewed coffee and bread in the toaster… The warmth of an embrace from your partner, parent, or child… As our lives have slowed down, these little moments are overlooked no more. But more than just the smells and sounds of everyday life are getting renewed attention and appreciation.
Quality time with family
For families with young children, many parents quickly needed to coordinate childcare and homeschooling. Through spending much more one-on-one time with their kids, parents realized how hard teachers work (with a whole classroom of students!), especially when they had to transform their curriculum to be completely digital for the last months of the school year. Parents’ appreciation for teachers took on a whole new meaning during this time.
Despite the tough days parents went through getting their children to focus on a Zoom call, they’re realizing that this was an unprecedented opportunity to get to know their kids, spending more time with them than ever before. Many parents also found their house full again as adult children have either come home from college or moved back home from their crowded apartments. During these difficult circumstances, having the whole family together can provide a varied support system to help every family member cope with stress and anxiety.
Essential workers who kept neighborhoods and cities running
In addition to doctors and physicians treating those with COVID-19, there are other essential workers and businesses that have contributed to the well-being of our society: grocery and convenience store workers, mass transit operators, pharmacy staff, emergency first responders, food pantry and soup kitchen staff, farmers and those responsible for food production, restaurants and food delivery drivers, and many more.
Before this pandemic, we likely didn’t consider what makes an essential worker “essential,” nor did they. Realizing that medical and nonmedical workers alike were essential to our livelihoods and well-being cultivated immense collective gratitude for what they do – putting their lives at risk every day – prompting a nightly 7pm cheer in China, New York City, and other cities around the world.
Access to information and technology
Never in our lifetimes have we had more access to information nor more opportunity to use technology. We’ve been able to stay informed about this ongoing pandemic with the click of a button (for better or worse) as well as use our devices to connect with family, friends, and loved ones around the world. Again, this isn’t something we would normally think about. Now that we’ve become reliant on technology as our lifeline to the outside world, we need to understand the importance of this relationship and how to balance the benefits and downsides of technology use.
How to keep reprioritizing and find balance
We’re all a work in progress, striving to learn, grow, and show up in the world as the best versions of ourselves. A global pandemic may have thrown a wrench in your life plans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pivot and continue on your journey of self-discovery toward ultimate health. The best way to start is to look at all the areas of your health and assess each one to determine where you could use some more attention and nourishment. This exercise is what we at IIN call the Circle of Life, which encompasses 12 areas of well-being:
- Physical Activity
- Home Cooking
- Home Environment
- Social Life
Once you find the areas you want to work on, think about how you can achieve nourishment in each:
Spirituality – This can include religion but can also mean spending more time in nature, starting a yoga or meditation practice, or immersing yourself in art. Spirituality is all about connecting with something outside of and larger than yourself, and that means something different for everyone!
Creativity – Many of us may struggle with embracing our creative side, but it’s a wonderful chance to get out of our own way and clear up space in our minds to just be. This can look like painting, sewing, knitting, or even writing or composing music.
Finances – Ever feel stressed about money? You’re not alone. You may not think your finances are part of your health, but from a holistic perspective, it absolutely is, especially since you can have negative feelings around money that permeate into other areas of your life. Depending on your financial concerns, start small, such as learning how to reframe your beliefs around money.
Career – Whether you’ve been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic or you lost your job, it’s still a great time to think about what you really want out of a career. Are you happy with your current work situation? Did you enjoy what you were doing before you lost your job? Ask yourself these questions and more to figure out if it’s time to head down a different career path.
Education – Continuing to learn new things is a great way to keep your mind sharp and healthy, especially during a time when our minds have been so consumed with stress and anxiety, which are detrimental to our mental health. Sign up for an online course or workshop, learn to play an instrument, do puzzles, or pursue a training program that could help you with a potential new career (if you need more educational experience to do so).
Health – This refers to your physical health and how you feel on a daily basis – it’s probably what you think of when you hear health. As you become better attuned to listening to your body’s cues, you’ll be able to better manage your health. This could look like noticing you feel bloated after eating certain foods or experiencing headaches when you sit at your computer for too long without breaks. These are minor examples, but learning to listen to these cues will help you recognize both small issues and larger, more urgent health concerns.
Physical Activity – Moving your body in a way that works for you is incredibly important. The ways in which we engage in physical activity these days might look like clearing our living room to make room for workout mats and equipment instead of going to the gym. Allow this time of change to also think about what makes your body feel energized. Do you like high-intensity activities, such as running, biking, rowing, HIIT, or weight training, or lower-impact activities, such as swimming, Pilates, yoga, or barre? Find your perfect combination and embrace non-traditional physical activities, such as gardening, walking the dog, or doing housework.
Home Cooking – Home cooking has so many benefits, including bringing the family together, learning more about what goes into your food, and creating healthier meals than you would find if you were ordering in or dining out. The practice of cooking at home also helps cultivate a positive mind-set around food, as you are putting your own effort into creating healthy meals for yourself and your family.
Home Environment – We’ve spent a lot of time in our homes over the last few months. Does your home make you feel safe? happy? anxious? Believe it or not, your home and everything in it can have an impact on your emotional, and even physical, well-being. From arranging your furniture to uplift your mood to swapping your cleaners to interact with less toxins, you have the power to transform your home into an oasis!
Relationships – The nature of this pandemic forced us to isolate from others, but it also made us connect more intentionally with those who mean the most to us. Whether through video calls, snail mail, or a socially distant meetup, you have the opportunity to continue to cultivate and nurture relationships that are important to you. The opposite is also true – if you have people in your life who don’t make you feel your best, you can choose to not spend as much energy on those relationships.
Social Life – Many people have enjoyed the lack of plans the pandemic has caused, as well as the reduced pressure to go out, while others are itching to get together with big groups of people again. Just like you considered with your relationships, think about what kinds of social outings feel fun for you and which ones were not so fun. This will help you communicate those needs in the future when our social lives start shifting back to “normal.”
Joy – What brings you joy? What makes you smile ear to ear? What makes you feel more energized no matter how much energy you spend on it? In addition to finding the activities or things that bring you joy, cultivating gratitude and improving your mind-set can bring more joy into your life as you’re reflecting on what you already have and what’s already within you.
Complete the Circle of Life exercise now to learn more about how to address your health holistically. As we like to say at IIN, you’re a bio-individual, which means only you will know what’s best for you. During these challenging times, taking care of yourself so you can better show up for others is key to managing your energy and your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.