Anticipating life after COVID-19
For many of us, the pandemic has dramatically altered our lives. With the vaccines being distributed rapidly, and many states already fully opening up, we are getting our first glimmers of life after COVID-19. Now is an excellent time to begin thinking about what you’d like your life to look like moving forward. Without knowing precisely what a world without COVID-19 at the forefront will look like or bring, we can’t fully operationalize every change. Still, we can examine our priorities and decide on what pandemic habits we want to keep and which ones we want to throw out. If we start thinking about this now, we can prevent falling back into old and undesirable habits as society completely reopens.
Take stock of your pre-pandemic life
It can seem like a big undertaking to overhaul your life and habits, so let’s break it down. Begin by taking stock of how your life looked pre-pandemic. What did you like about your life? What did you not like? Perhaps you enjoyed your exercise routine but didn’t like your shopping habits. Maybe you enjoyed time spent hanging out with friends but wished to incorporate new activities into regular hangouts.
Now, consider how your life has changed since the pandemic and what would be reasonable to expect of yourself moving forward. For example, maybe your support system looks different now, or you’ve had a job change that won’t allow for life to go back to exactly how it was. If you’ve experienced loss, give yourself space to grieve. Examining our lives and habits can bring up unpleasant emotions. Be gentle with yourself and take breaks as needed to take care of your emotional needs.
Now take a look at your pandemic life
Next, take a look at what your life looks like now. What do you like? What do you not like? What have you implemented in your life since the pandemic that serves you well? What isn’t serving you? Maybe you’ve picked up a new hobby that you want to ensure you have enough time for or you fear falling into old time-wasting habits.
Once you have these lists compiled, take what you want and leave what you don’t want. You can start this process by identifying activities you definitely want to eliminate or decrease the amount of time you spend on, activities you want to continue to include in moderate amounts, and activities you want to prioritize.
Begin implementing changes
As you start thinking about what changes you want to make, start implementing some of them now. Small, sustainable changes often lend themselves to long-term change for the better. For example, if you're going to make a habit of exercising more, begin by building a small exercise routine into your daily schedule. As you feel more confident with this, you can add to it, and by the time we’re into post-pandemic life, it will feel well established.
Hold yourself accountable
Finally, hold yourself accountable and stick to your changes. There are many strategies for this, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some ways to stay accountable might be:
- Including other people in your changes (like a workout buddy, for example)
- Scheduling activities in a planner or calendar
- Tracking your habits in a chart or spreadsheet
- Writing down goals and keeping them visible
- Setting reminders on your phone
If you’re looking at bigger life changes and feel that you could use extra support, you’re not alone. Many people seek out coaching to help with meeting goals or therapy to work through life changes. Many coaches and therapists continue to provide video sessions, even as the pandemic is winding down in the US. If you are interested in coaching, begin by searching in your area. For therapy, start by contacting your insurance company to understand your benefits and to get local referrals.
Skye White, LICSW is a mental health therapist at Catalyst Counseling, a group practice in downtown Woodinville, Washington. She loves to read, craft, and draw in her spare time. Before the pandemic hit, she loved to travel and see live music, so she now listens to music at home and enjoys cuisine from all over the world from the comforts of her living room.