Essential questions to ask yourself before "going back to normal"


As we start to wrap our heads around moving away from the strictest physical distancing regulations and towards more “normal” lives, it’s a good idea to take a little time to process and reflect on what we’ve learned about ourselves over the past year. Chances are we’ve had a little more time to really examine our lives and whether we’re spending our time and energy the way we want to (whether we welcomed these realizations with open arms or not). 

Some of us may have begun to accept that our closest relationships weren’t what we thought they were - or maybe on the contrary they were even stronger than we could have imagined! Perhaps we realized in the absence of our normal “stress alleviators” like intramural sports, after work happy hours, and twice yearly trips, we are no longer able to cope as well with the pain points in our lives. Maybe, in the absence of all the responsibilities that normally kept us “busy” (for some, distracted or avoidant), we started to see more clearly what we wanted more of in our lives, and what was becoming less tolerable. 

Now, as we start to think about transitioning back into a new-and-similar-but-different existence (more on the mixed emotions associated with this here), chances are we could benefit from taking what we’ve observed and learned about ourselves and use it to shape an even more fulfilling life than we had before. We’ve got some thought-provoking prompts to help you get started in your reflections (bonus points if you’re able to write these down in a journal free flow - it can really help us process and eventually clarify things). Let's begin! 

What was the most uncomfortable truth I learned about myself? 

Now… how can we reframe this into a reflection and intention we’ll bring forward with us? How can this deeper level of understanding ourselves help us move towards a more authentic and intentional existence? Think about maybe what was most difficult about being at home more - what does this tell you about your own needs and what brings you joy (and/or is essential for your mental wellness)?

What (or who!) in our lives do we appreciate now more than we used to?

Maybe it’s those family dinners we’ve missed out for months, travelling during the holidays, summer vacations, or just friendly, improptu get togethers. Maybe it’s our alone time, or quality time with our partners or friends. Maybe we’re more appreciative of our jobs and what we get to do, or our hobbies that we’ve re-discovered over the past year. 

What are the 2 best things you started doing during physical distancing that you’d like to keep around permanently?

There are certainly habits we picked up over the last little while that actually served us well - think less busy schedules, more home cooked meals, or reconnecting with long-distance friends digitally. Whatever it is, resolve to bring these forward into the future. 

What is one of the ways you’ve improved your ability to communicate, especially surrounding your boundaries?

One positive of post-pandemic life is that many of us are able to be more honest with ourselves and with each other about what we do and do not want - how we want to spend our time and how we don’t. Remember: consistently guilting ourselves into doing things we don't actually want to do drains our emotional and physical energy (and can eventually lead to burnout). We’re having the harder conversations and talking about mental heath struggles more than ever before. As we transition into a new normal, think about one of the ways you’ve either a) gotten better at communicating, or b) one way you want to really focus on improving. 

This pandemic has gifted us the opportunity to reevaluate our lives and hit the reset button on our everyday schedules. We have a chance now to be more intentional about how we spend our time - we get a fresh start to architect our lives. For most of us, this likely means setting more intentional boundaries, which may be difficult and scary at first, but we promise it is well worth it in the long run. This might look like telling a friend you saw twice a week pre-pandemic that you’d like to see them once a week moving forward in the effort of not stretching yourself too thin. As the very wise Brené Brown says, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”