It’s a spring Saturday afternoon in San Diego. I’m sitting outside in my backyard enjoying a fire my husband, Max, has built while my two pups spend their time chasing geckos and sleeping in the patches of grass shaded by the palm trees. Finding happiness in the simple things has become my new normal. But it took some mindset shifting to get here.
Sense of loss
Rewind four weeks ago, I did not have this sense of calmness. The day the Shelter in Place Oder was mandated across California, I cried. I wasn’t 100% sure why which made it worse. If I had to guess, it was because of this anxious feeling of not knowing when things would return to “normal”. Or even worse, would we ever go back to “normal”? This sense of losing control was scary. There were two options I could take: sit in my fear or find a way to design my new normal.
I took the latter approach. It lined up with my own personal values and who I want to show up as a person.
Connecting with people
I decided to start with reflecting on what I felt I was losing and preventing me from feeling joy. By going back to my values, it was easy to figure out the first priority: human connection. But did I physically have to be next to another person to have that connection?
I read recently that the WHO (World Health Organization) was recommending we start using the term physical distancing instead of social distancing during this COVID-19 pandemic. That was the reminder I needed to realize I could still connect with our friends and family just in different ways. And that I’m fortunate to be so rich in family and friends. Since the lockdown, we’ve celebrated birthdays, happy hours, and game nights virtually (we love the app Houseparty). In fact, we’ve reconnected with close friends we had lost touch with over the years (that’s you Jeff and Elicia if you’re reading this!).
Connecting with nature
Another part of this pandemic that was plaguing me was the loss of walking along the beach and exploring the parks. We had moved down to San Diego a year and a half prior to take advantage of the natural beauty that exists in this tropical paradise. But then I asked myself another question: is that really gone?
Max and I now make time to drive along the beach, with our sun roof open and pups hanging their heads out the back window. We find happiness in looking at the beautiful blue skies that are even more clear now due to the reduced pollution from the lockdown mandates. There’s something majestic about the way the clouds slowly move through the sky that places us into a reflective state. A state of gratitude and appreciation for everything we have rather than focusing on what we’re missing in life.
Connecting with purpose
The final piece of me that was still adjusting was around time. Everyday felt like the same and I realized what bothered me most was the sense of lost purpose. I kept asking “what’s the point?”. I knew deep down this was a dangerous path and not a healthy place to stay for very long. I quickly made a mindset shift happen and promised myself to begin engaging in the small activities again that brought on a sense of completion. I needed to take back control.
To start, I began “book ending” my days again. I used to always start my days with a dog walk and end with a visit to my favorite Yoga gym. Since the pandemic, my work days felt longer. Although I’ve been a full-time remote worker for some time now, this was a new normal for many of my co-workers. Without the commute, they felt they could be more productive by starting their work days even earlier and ending later. Fortunately, our leadership team gave us the permission to not be as productive in order to focus on safety, security, and family during these unprecedented times. And without gyms being able to safely stay open, I had to find an alternative to end my days. Yet again I ran into a fortunate situation of having a partner like Max who was willing to experiment with running. We never thought we’d have to run unless someone was chasing us but desperate times call for desperate measures to take back control.
Finding your new normal
I understand I’m lucky to have supportive people around me personally and professionally. It was the key to my success in finding my new normal. If you feel like you do not have people like this in your life, do not let yourself feel powerless. There are tools out there that can help you find new ways to connect during these times like MeetUp organizations, book clubs, and therapists. All of which have begun to go virtual.
But if you do one thing, find at least one person or activity that you can connect to and remove anything in your life that prevents you from owning your life and finding your new normal. Just cut it out whether it’s a negative person in your social circle or that voice in your head telling you that you can’t do something. Remember your new normal is going to be unique to you and you are the only one who can control what that looks like for you.
- Get curious with yourself: what do you need to be happy and how can you make that happen during this pandemic?
- Take control and find ways to take action of finding happiness
- It helps to have a partner or activity that brings you a sense of calmness
- Cut out anything that blocks you from being you and finding your new normal
Remembering back to our trip to Japan about one month prior to the US border closing, preventing travel during the pandemic. Max and me making Ramen noodles. Simple but oh so tasty!