Time to Create Your New Normal

Mental Health

As I write this article, Covid-19 related restrictions are starting to be lifted in my home state of NSW and also, across most of Australia. Accordingly, it looks like we’re starting to come out the other side of what’s been an unprecedented and unusual few months. It’s been a period of physical distancing, home isolation, remote working and along with that, let’s not forget distress and disruption.

But as we all begin to return to workplaces and schools, there is an incredible opportunity for many of us to create a new and even better future life. I don’t want in any way to diminish or discount the very real problems many are facing and might continue to face for some time (e.g. financial strain and job insecurity). However, I do want to encourage as many of you who can seize this moment as one from which you can begin again. Take advantage of this unique moment in time when we can create a “new normal” (whatever that might mean for each of us).

I’ve pondered this a lot in recent weeks as talk of “returning to normal” has ramped up, because I’ve reflected much myself and had numerous conversations with others about whether going back to “the way things were” is really ideal or desirable. This doesn’t mean your whole life needs to be 100% different, but it does mean that it might not need to be 100% the same!

This article, therefore, is an invitation to you. n invitation to set aside some time and to think about how you’d like your best possible future life to be; how much of that existed already in the past, and how you can bridge the gap between what you had and what you want. So, here’s a little exercise for you all to try. It won’t take long, but it may well change your life for the better!

Firstly, find yourself some paper and a pen

If like me, you spend most of your time working on a computer you might resist this but, I’ve found through many years of experience that these types of reflection exercises are far more effective if done on pen and paper rather than on a screen. It’s up to you but give it some serious thought.

Now, write down in as much detail as you can what your best possible life would look like

As you do so, consider all the various domains of life such as work, family, friendships, health, recreational activities, and anything else you can think of.

Following this, reflect back to pre-Corona-life

Write down what was working well and what was not working so well (Were you spending too much time commuting? Were you working too many hours? Spending too much money? Not seeing friends as much as you’d like? Were you racing around, always rushing and busy, and ignoring your health and wellbeing?

It’s important to be realistic

So, there will undoubtedly be items on each of these lists that can’t be changed, or that would be extremely difficult to change. At the same time, however, there will almost certainly be aspects of your life that are amenable to change – even if only partly (could you go back to the office part-time and continue to work from home part-time? Are there parts of your spending that you’ve realised were excessive or unnecessary? In what ways could you devote more time and energy to living more healthily?). 

Finally, review all of the above

Make a list of all the things you can change for the better. Break these down into manageable chunks and then note your top 3 “next steps” (things you can take action on immediately). Now schedule these into your calendar or integrate them into your to-do list and … get to it!

There you have it; the beginnings of a pathway to a “new normal”; a better future built on lessons you’ve learned during the last few months. And with that, I’d like to finish with an important reminder – please don’t underestimate the potential benefits that can come from making small changes. You probably can’t and you don’t need to change everything, but that’s OK. Just change what you can, even if it’s only a little, and that small change might create enough positivity to make a difference; it might just also create the motivation and inspiration and energy to then go further and make even more positive changes over time. And that, surely, would be well worth the effort.

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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