In 2020, I went from a vibrant social life with family and friends and working outside my home, to working at home for months while having very limited physical contact with the people I loved most in the world. I had to learn new healthy coping tools while relying on my tried-and-true ones to help me navigate through difficult things. Some things had to look different for a time in my life, and I am sure that happened in your life as well.
As life begins to feel more normal than it has this past year, it might be a good time to look at some habits that have been neglected in the pandemic. What needs some adjusting or tweaking? What simple practices do we need to “begin again” in living our daily lives as life settles down a bit more?
Eating at the table
Our nation’s relationship with food has changed over the course of the pandemic. Big shifts in our daily lives have a way of forcing us to change and even change our relationship to food. With many of us working and schooling at home this past year, it is no surprise the “fruit snack” category has more than doubled its sales or that frozen food sales are up more than 20 percent.
If you’ve gotten accustomed to eating meals wherever your Zoom call found you, now is the perfect time to begin to make your way back to the kitchen or dining room table to enjoy the taste and experience of your meals. Even if you are eating alone, you can savor and enjoy the experience as a peaceful moment in your day. Taking the time to eat your meal at the table helps you better enjoy your food and savor the experience. Have a vase of fresh flowers, or use the pretty tablecloth just because.
Cleaning your room or making the bed
I don’t know about you, but one of the first places I forget to care for when I feel overwhelmed or stressed is my bedroom. If I go several days without keeping things tidying thingsy or making the bed, for me it is an indication that my internal self feels a little chaotic or messy.
Little actions of caring for yourself on a continual basis help deal with stress and overwhelm. Has your bedroom felt like a peaceful haven this last year? Or, has it grown more cluttered and disorganized, not feeling very soothing to your spirit?
Regardless of where you fall, taking the time to straighten your bedroom can make you feel more relaxed while also brightening your spirits. In my family growing up, my mom had a nightly tradition called the “20 Minute Pick-up.” Before bed, we spent 20 minutes tidying and picking up. As an adult now on my own, I still carry this tradition in my life and the first thing I do when I come home from work is tidy for 20 minutes.
Hang up and put away your clothes right away. If an item is dirty, throw it in the hamper and not the ever-growing pile on the floor. Make the bed each day before you leave. Diffuse some soothing smells like lavender or peppermint essential oil to help create a relaxing atmosphere.
Prioritize your to-do list
Before the pandemic, I can remember how chaotic and messy my daily to-do lists looked or felt. On days I felt particularly stressed, I tried to deal with my feelings by constantly re-writing my to-do lists, which was not effective. In the hardest weeks of the pandemic, though, a to-do list helped me feel more grounded or like I had some small amount of control when everything else around me felt out of control. Maybe you had a similar experience, or maybe the to-do list was the first thing to go when life got confusing, and you haven’t quite gotten back into it. As your ability to do more and be with people grows, prioritizing your to-list can help you be more focused, intentional, and use your time to the best of your ability.
One thing helping me as I come back to a more normal work environment is starting a new work week with a brain dump of all the things I need to get done on a given day. Then I go through and label tasks as high, medium, or low priority to get done. I make sure to complete my high priority tasks first and quickest. Then, looking ahead to the rest of the week, I look at both my medium and low priority tasks to see when throughout the week I can get the rest of them done. Labeling things out this way feels more manageable and more focused on what really are the most important tasks to finish in a given week.
Being friendly out and about
One of the things I have missed the most about life before the pandemic is the friendly banter of being out and about in my daily life: chatting with the man bagging my groceries, saying please and thank you to the server, stopping to chat with the woman behind me at the grocery store. There’s less opportunity for these kinds of interactions when groceries or takeout are being left at the front door. Plus, wearing masks has made it more difficult to connect with people out in the world because you can not see their whole face and expression.
As you go out more and begin to spend more time with friends and family, look for ways to be friendly and kind to people you encounter as you live your daily life. Thank the person bagging your groceries by his first name. Open the doors for older people with a kind word. Let people feel the smile in your voice, even if they cannot see it because of your mask.
For many of us, this last year has been more about surviving than thriving. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing, and we are beginning to see its effects in things like mental health and the fog of forgetfulness, not remembering what life looked like or felt like before our whole world was upended. As we begin to depart from a Covid survival mentality, it might take time to adjust to some normal, healthy habits again, but it can be done!