I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been feeling antsy lately. And also utterly paralyzed with overwhelm. I want to shake things up, but I don’t know how. I’ve been meaning to start meditating again or to start journaling. I feel a bit stuck — and annoyed that I’m stuck — but I don’t know how to get unstuck. You know? Then there’s that tiny issue of time and energy, of which there is never enough. Sigh…
If you’re feeling this way too, you aren’t alone. The past year has been traumatic and life-altering, to the least. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to emerge from the pandemic with our jobs, health, and relationships intact, it’s caused many of us to take a close look at our lives and assess whether we’re spending our time and energy on things that are meaningful to us.
Bottom line: life is too short and precious for bullshit.
“I have all this anxiety that we’re just going to go back to what people think of as normal,” Leslie Scott, a nonprofit event organizer from Oregon, told the New York Times. “As we come out of our cocoons, am I emerging from something and moving toward something new? Or am I just stuck?”
I feel you, Leslie. I feel you.
I don’t want to just return to the same-old-same-old. I want to be changed by the past year. Because I am changed. And I’m guessing you are too.
“Covid-19 was an awful time for many of us,” said Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale who teaches a popular online course called “The Science of Well-Being,” told the New York Times. “There’s lots of evidence for what’s called post-traumatic growth — that we can come out stronger and with a bit more meaning in our lives after going through negative events. I think we can all harness this awful pandemic time as a time to get some post-traumatic growth in our own lives.”
Experts say that because of the temporal shift (returning to the office, kids back in school, or the start of summer, for instance), along with this new phase of pandemic life (dare we think about soon calling it post-pandemic life?), now is a perfect time for a fresh start or a new routine.
“Although the pandemic is far from over, for many people, the lifting of restrictions and getting vaccinated means planning vacations and returning to more-normal work and school routines. It’s exactly the kind of psychological new beginning that could prompt the fresh start effect,” Dr. Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School and author of the new book “How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” told the New York Times.
Personally, I’m both excited and terrified for a fresh start and new routines. I want a fresh start. But a fresh start of what, exactly? What does a fresh start look like?
If you’re stuck too, it might be helpful to take a look at what isn’t working before thinking about what you want to start doing. Stephanie Kersta, a registered psychotherapist and co-founder of Hoame meditation studio in Toronto, told Huffington Post that spending some time reflecting on what hasn’t served you in the past year encourages us to look at behaviors and aspects of our lives that aren’t beneficial. Once we know what isn’t beneficial, we can work on changing it.
Another helpful tip is to think small. A recent episode of the podcast This American Life focused on the power of daily practices — whether it’s exercise, prayer, or practicing the saxophone — so maybe “fresh start” is too big. Maybe it’s best to just do something small, every single day. For instance, I could log back into my Chopra app and do a 4-minute meditation. Or download a daily gratitude app. And that journaling practice I’ve been telling myself to start, maybe I could just jot down a few words a day.
If you’re open to trying new things and looking for a little help with whatever your new “daily” or “simple fresh start” might look like, the New York Times has created a 10-Day Fresh Start Challenge with daily tips for mindful living. I don’t know about you but I’m game.
When you get down to it, the specific timing of a fresh start or new daily habit doesn’t matter as much as the intention. So as that famous slogan goes, just do it.
“I think a lot of us have realized how fragile some of the things were that gave us joy before, from going to the grocery store, to going out to a restaurant with friends, going to a movie, giving your mom a hug whenever you’d like,” said Dr. Santos. “My hope is that we’ll emerge from this pandemic with a bit more appreciation for the little things in life.”
Amen to that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, a meditation app is calling my name.
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