By Marko Sipka, LCPC
For many people, the first “shelter-in-place” order made the hustle and bustle of everyday life come to a grinding halt. Of course if you are an essential worker, medical professional, or simply have a house full of kids trying to navigate remote learning, life may have seemed more chaotic than ever before. Still, the cancelation of family gatherings, vacations, live theater, sporting events, dinner dates, and countless other calendar events left many of us twiddling our thumbs wondering how to fill our time. It was the “gift of time” most of us fantasize about, but when accompanied with furloughs, economic uncertainty, political unrest, and a global pandemic, this “gift of time” felt more like a curse.
The vacuum was suffocating for many people. Extroverts and introverts alike struggled to stay connected to people, and we all began seeking some sort of routine to keep us grounded. After binging on distracting entertainment on Netflix and Hulu, many wrestled with a strange “American rat-race” sort of guilt associated with being less productive. Were we making the best possible use of this extra time? Many of us realized how bad we are at really resting and simply allowing ourselves to accomplish less.
But sometimes it takes a jolt in our daily routine to awaken the creativity in us. In less than a month, the internet started blowing up with various “projects.” Some turned to watercolors, others began making bread. Some dove deep into gardening (perhaps you remember the lines wrapped around every garden center and home improvement store). Others discovered, or rather re-discovered, their love of the great outdoors. Whichever positive activity people took up, many were able to connect or reconnect with things that truly support their well-being. In such a difficult year, this extra time seemed to be a reminder of the important things we may have lost contact with. Life had become too full, too crowded, too over-scheduled.
This made me wonder why it took a pandemic to make us reconnect with things that nurture us and help us feel good. And how can we arrange our lives after this pandemic passes in order to maintain some of these healthy habits? For many of us, that might just mean having the courage to say “no.” Knowing our limits takes a level of self-knowledge that can ultimately help us find contentment. Maybe the question can be reworked. Not “Can I fit this event in my calendar? But should I?”
Perhaps we have an opportunity to ask ourselves, what positive habits have I cultivated this year that I can carry into life after the pandemic? What have I learned about myself? What is really important? What brings me joy?
If you would like to discuss ways to improve your overall well-being, please feel free to reach out to us to speak to a therapist.