As we close out half a year of dealing with the fear and uncertainties associated with living through a pandemic, many of the approaches we used to help maintain a sense of normalcy at the beginning no longer feel as meaningful or as helpful as they once did. For example, the weekly Zoom happy hour, once a way to connect with friends, later became just another calendar appointment in the seemingly endless schedule of virtual meetings. This is because, for many, fatigue set in. Fatigue associated with technology, fatigue associated with the stress of the virus and stress of the news cycle, and fatigue associated with living in a state of self-protection for so long.
So, what can we do to remain positive when all of the former approaches no longer seem valuable?
Focus on the positive.
Celebrate important events, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and significant moments, either your own or those of your loved ones. Take time to enjoy your accomplishments, such as the daily tasks that you complete or the goals you reach. There is no achievement too small; all are significant, such as finally completing that project you had been putting off, or clearing out a closet that always seemed too daunting a task. Express gratitude for the big things, the small things, and all of those precious moments in between.
Set SMART goals.
Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (Doran, 1981). While we may not be able to set long-term goals, we can certainly create to-do lists that focus on clear and concise, proximal goals. Create a to-do list that outlines the important tasks that should be accomplished each day, as well as what must be completed by the end of each week. Notice the use of should and must in the previous sentence. While you want to create a daily schedule to keep you focused, allow yourself the flexibility to move action items to different days of the week should something more pressing come up. Be both flexible and organized.
Create and maintain boundaries.
COVID-19 has dissolved and/or created challenges for our pre-existing boundaries. Boundaries can both refer to the delineation between work and home, as well as the requirements we have for safety and security. With regard to working from home, it is important to set aside time in which you fully engage with the household- your responsibilities within the home, relaxation in the space, or with the people you share your home with. Block off your schedule, so that even if your meetings move beyond the typical confines of the work day, you have time to walk away from the computer, turn off the phone, and be present in your surroundings, enabling you to retain the view of home as your safe haven.
Regarding setting boundaries with friends and loved ones, you can share what you are and are not willing to do, as well as your needs for safety. While we can’t control the behavior of others, we can decide who we choose to interact with and how we choose to engage with them. Decide what feels right for you and set that boundary.
The word self-care appears to be a buzzword nowadays, but don’t let the frequency with which it appears cause you to assume it’s just a fad and underestimate its importance. Self-care refers to any activity you engage in to care for your health and well-being. It is imperative to determine what activities work best for you. For some it may be meditation or yoga, and for others, it may be reading a book. Self-care doesn’t only involve engaging in activities, but can take the form of removing oneself from certain spaces or responsibilities. For example, self-care can involve learning how to delegate responsibilities rather than overextending yourself, or taking a break from social media. Self-care is important and it is personal; there is no right way to approach it. Implementing a self-care practice can help to reinvigorate your body and mind.
As what was one deemed to be a temporary adjustment, has slowly become our new normal, there are actions that we can take to reframe our views, shift our focus, and incorporate positivity into our daily lives. While I hope that the tips I have suggested are helpful, more importantly, I hope that there are better, safer, and more carefree days ahead.
Stay well and stay safe!
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), 35-36.