Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Care and Compassion in a Re-emerging World
This post is a continuation of a previous post. Find part 1 here.
Looking ahead, life isn’t going to be exactly the same as it was before. The changes from the pandemic have been big enough and lasted long enough that they will have lasting impacts. The “normal” we return to after COVID won’t be the same “normal” we had before COVID. Let’s take a look ahead now at some of the challenges coming in the near future so you have a chance to prepare for them in a way that is healthy for you.
How will you handle overstimulation?
We have been largely isolated and at home for the last year. Re-emerging into our social lives is going to mean going into busy spaces where we may not have been, seeing people in person instead of on computer screens, having busier schedules, more driving, etc. All of this means a lot of extra stimulation for your nervous system, and your nervous system is probably already pretty taxed after this last year. Even if you don’t usually think of yourself as a sensitive person, this change in stimulation is going to have an impact. You may notice yourself feeling more tired than usual or having a shorter temper or struggling to focus. If you haven’t already, make a plan to take extra good care of your body and nervous system as we move into re-opening. Good nervous system care can include getting enough quality rest, eating well, moving your body in a healthy way, practicing mindfulness or meditation, tending to your relationships, or spending time outdoors. This takes some discipline when life is pulling your focus in a lot of other directions. Will you need support with this?
How will you pace your life?
I’ve heard many people say that they enjoyed the slower pace of life during COVID. Having fewer commitments, kids’ extracurricular activities, meetings, and less travel was surprisingly refreshing to a lot of people, and many have told me that they plan to keep a slower pace of life after things open back up. During COVID, a slower pace of life was enforced for many of us (those not on the front-lines of fighting the disease, in any case), but there is a huge difference between having a slower pace of life when everyone is doing it, and having a slower pace of life when the world around you goes back to its normal pace.
Keeping open time in your life requires a fierce level of commitment. If the COVID year has helped you to realize that you value such time, I suggest making a very clear plan about what commitments you are willing to make and what time you will keep open. If you don’t make a plan ahead of time then I can almost guarantee your time will get filled back up as the rest of the world around you returns to its habits of unmindful growth and racing around. This is another area where you may want to find support. Be honest with yourself—what life do you want to lead in the post-COVID world? What pace is healthy for you?
Rue has suggestions about the proper pace of life
How will you care for your mental and emotional health?
If it has done nothing else COVID has highlighted the lengths that may be necessary to care for our health. I’ve already talked about how a re-opening world may stress our nervous systems (and by extension our bodies, relationships, work, etc), but I also want to highlight that as much as you may be clinging to the hope that everything will go back to normal and bring happiness with it, the process of re-opening is likely to be chaotic and messy, to bring out more disagreements between people, and to bring new types of stress. I’m not trying to be a downer here—I think there will be lots of great moments, too! But I know that anxiety and depression have been an epidemic during COVID, and I honestly think that mental and emotional health will continue to be a big focus moving forward. How will you care for your mental and emotional well-being as we navigate the messy and uncertain time of re-opening? There are so many possible approaches to this question! Therapy is an obvious answer, but movement, meditation, mindfulness, and community can also help. It may take some perseverance, but keep looking until you find the approach (or combination of approaches) that work for you.
One client said to me, “What if we gave the same level of energy and attention to mental and emotional health going forward that we gave to controlling the virus over the last year?” What a fascinating question. I wonder what that world would look like.
How will you balance individual choices with community needs?
This one might not be popular, but I feel compelled to include it. One of the major themes that I’ve observed throughout COVID has been the tension between individual choice and community need. Right now I see this debate highlighted in the vaccine conversation.
I chose to get vaccinated because I felt like it was the best way I could keep my family and studio community safe. For me, the risks to my community (local and global) outweighed the personal risks of vaccination. However I have friends in the natural health community who feel differently, and I can understand their point of view.
My sense is that this debate between personal choice and community need is going to keep coming up. I invite you to consider how you can make peace with this dynamic within yourself. I see so many people getting deeply upset with others who do not share their perspective, whether it is one of personal choice or one of community need. I see myself getting upset, too, so I can truly empathize, but our relationships suffer when we hold more tightly to what we believe than to our ability to open our hearts and hear one another. Our bodies suffer when we hold so much tension around our need to be right.
So I invite you to soften and keep listening to the perspectives that are different from yours. You don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to agree with them. And please understand that this is a subtle practice and one to be entered into gently. Be mindful of your own health and self-care when entering into any such conversation, and take space when you need it. By listening when you are able, you may learn more about your own individual way of navigating this very polarized world that we seem to now be living in, and you may contribute your own little bit of healing to it.
The Opportunity of the Post-COVID World
I’ve painted a picture here of many challenges. In my work, I naturally see how people underestimate the level of challenge that they are facing and how this directly impacts their health, so one of my roles is to shine light in these dark places so that you can reclaim your power through awareness.
But I have the sense that there are also tremendous opportunities as we move into re-opening. The challenges of our age feel so very much larger than any one of us. Climate change, political division, social injustice—these topics are enough to make any of us feel small and insignificant. But in times of transition, patterns unlock. They become a little easier to influence or nudge. We are heading into another big time of transition.
It is with our awareness that new patterns can emerge, new habits can be established, and healing can occur. Can you emerge from this year of chaos and pain with a little more kindness and compassion, both for yourself and for others? These qualities, when held with conviction, can be contagious. Imagine: what would a world infected by a natural upwelling of compassion and kindness look like? I’d like to live in that world.
Can you use this as an opportunity to live your life in a way that brings greater health for yourself, your relationships, the planet? Each one of us who makes those choices helps to support them in others, and little by little, we may shift the patterns.
If you’ve read this far, thank you! Your attention is precious, and I’m honored to have shared this time with you. I wish you strength, perseverance, and peace in your own re-opening journey. Be well.