We can probably all agree that it was a different type of Memorial Day this year. In addition to remembering and paying homage to the brave service men and women of our country, many of us also experienced our first weekend of “opening up” from quarantine. The end of May traditionally represents the official start of summer, filled with BBQs, picnics and the re-emergence of our favorite white pants. But instead, many of us found ourselves navigating uncharted territory – wondering what's really acceptable when it comes to re-activating our social lives.
All of us want nothing more than to resume the freedoms we once had pre-COVID-19. Yet with ongoing risks and unknowns still before us, we’re faced with the need to adopt a “new normal” (more like abnormal) moving forward. What that looks may be different for each one of us, depending upon our age, health-status and geography, but tuning into our own sense of safety and caution is essential. With happiness and resilience top of mind, here are a few tips for emerging mindfully into the next phase of the pandemic.
Find Permission to Move Forward
As we learn to navigate the new normal, it’s not unusual to feel grief, sadness, or a sense of loss for the version of our futures we’d planned. Our mantra moving forward is, “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” We don’t know who said it, but it rings true. While it felt reasonable to put plans on hold temporarily—frustrating as it was—it’s time to officially let go of some of the expectations we had about how we’d be spending our spring and summer. Staying in limbo is an uncomfortable place to be. We’re taking the time to grieve, and then, we’re finding inspiration to create new, sustainable plans for the current climate.
Make Room for Hope
The unknown leaves us feeling ungrounded. We don’t know what the next phase of life with COVID-19 will look like. Will a vaccine even work? Will life as we know it always include a virus, seasonal lock downs, and fear? It’s like beginning a long, arduous race without knowing how long we’ll be running. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is simply biological. We have something known as the negativity bias. Our brains contain more neural pathways hardwired to recognize threats and fixate on the negative. This survival mechanism likely helped us look out for predators a long time ago. But we do have the cognitive ability to leave room for an overlooked superpower: hope. When we make room for hope, we allow the possibility for good things to become part of that big, scary unknown. We may not know what the future holds for us. No one knows what or who could be just around the corner, with the potential to change our lives. And, it could be really, truly wonderful.
Take the Next Step
When we travel on vacation, we often don’t unpack our clothes. We’re not planning on staying around forever. But when we move into a new home, we put our family photos up on the wall. We hang artwork. We nest. Now is the time to take that next step into the present. Part of our discomfort could be due to the fact that we’ve been enduring this crisis for so long. Author and professional rock climber and BASE jumper, Steph Davis, explains, “There’s a lot to be said for enduring.” Davis lost her husband in a BASE jumping accident and speaks about the loss in her TED talk. In the years after his death, she entered a gray, colorless period of endurance. “Endurance is about holding on. Resilience is about letting go.” Things look very different now in a post-COVID-19 reality. Anyone who has faced loss knows the feeling. Anyone facing the stark reality of a cancer diagnosis knows the pre- and post-cancer reality. But, once we discover the difference between endurance and resilience, we may be able to discover joy.
Emerge at Our Own Pace
Everyone is allowed to experience the re-emergence from quarantine and social distancing at their own pace. While certain areas experienced varying levels of lockdown (from complete to almost non-existent), what we choose to do is deeply personal. How our schools, work, and public institutions reopen will look different across the country. And, they may change over time depending on how everything goes. Being responsible and taking care of our health, being respectful of the community and our loved ones, and taking precautions is up to us. And as always, we encourage everyone to work closely with healthcare professionals and doctors for medical advice as we make these decisions.
Observe the Moment at Hand
There’s nothing like a crisis to keep us rooted in the present. We’re bound to see our environments continue to morph as we learn more about COVID-19 testing and behaviors, and the best way to ride that wave is through mindfulness. Make plans, create memories and set goals to look forward to, but let’s also resist the urge to jump back into our old practices full force. No doubt we’ve all gleaned silver linings from our time at home, and it would be a shame to let them go by the wayside. Now is great moment to take the lessons of our Shelter in Place and apply them to a new-and-improved life, to correct the patterns that may have been off and plant seeds for a better, more balanced existence.
“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” ― Mizuta Masahide