By Linne Halpern
Editor’s note: this post was published on June 17, 2021. We urge readers to abide by guidelines issued in their local areas since then.
It’s safe to say your carefully-laid plans were likely upended in some unexpected ways last year, whether that means you were laid off, found yourself single in a pandemic, or were forced to move back in with parents. And with forward momentum difficult to muster during quarantine, it’s been easy to languish in feelings of helplessness. But with vaccines widely available and pillars of the ‘before times’ like restaurants and gyms reopening, it’s time to start figuring out our lives again. Below, we spoke with the experts to discuss methods for easing into new routines, reassessing our goals, and confidently wading into our post-pandemic futures.
Understand that change won’t happen overnight
With the return of social activity, so too comes the return of the comparison game. Maybe you’re not where you expected to be today—in your career, your romantic life, or your living situation. Sage Grazer, psychotherapist and co-founder of therapy platform Frame, encourages patience with yourself. You might not immediately meet the love of your life just because you can safely date now, or get your dream job offer because the economy is improving. “Things won’t just go back to how they were pre-pandemic,” says Grazer. “Every day will be a ‘new normal.’ So, temper your expectations of what is to come.” Relieve yourself of the pressure to have all the answers right now.
Continue to practice self-care
With health guidelines changing daily and the environment ever-evolving, a flexible mindset and a continued self-care practice are key. “Stay in tune with your body, and prioritize your wellbeing,” shares Grazer. “As your environment changes, so will your needs for space, time, connection, and movement.” Be an advocate for yourself and align with people, interactions, events, and practices that feel in tune with where you are today. Remember that self-care practices are not universal. Amy Fraser, founder of professional mentorship community for women OKREAL, says, “Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things the listicle on the internet tells you is self-care. Be honest about what you actually need in order to maintain your sense of self.”
Reverse engineer your goals
Instead of stressing that you don’t have all the answers, use this time for thoughtful reflection and proactive goal-setting. If you’re not sure how to get where you want to go, Fraser is a big proponent of reverse engineering your timeline. She asks, if you want to achieve a certain goal by 2022, where do you need to be next week in order to be on that path? “We have to be realistic about when things are going to happen and how we’re going to make them happen, instead of hiding behind nebulous timelines and vague goals,” she says. This advice can be applied to every aspect of our lives, from career to relationships to personal growth.
You’ll feel better when you take action
Even if you’re still feeling stuck, the best thing you can do is to just do something! “Motivation is usually considered a prerequisite for doing the thing, but I don’t think that’s true; motivation comes from the doing,” says Fraser. Remember that patience is still required, but “action is a great antidote to anxiety.” If it’s your career that feels lacking, reach out to contacts in your field, partake in virtual networking, or try learning a new skill. Even taking baby steps or small actions can be helpful as you inch towards your goals.
And when it comes to your dating life, Evin Rose Lipman, life and dating coach, agrees that taking an empowered, action-oriented approach is always the way to go. Instead of getting bogged down in the mindset where we have to master our inner growth before putting ourselves out there, Lipman suggests reframing dating as another opportunity to continue self-growth. “It’s often through exploration and experimentation that we learn most about ourselves and make breakthroughs,” she says. Embrace the awkward moments—everyone is feeling a little bit out of practice right now. “Your vulnerability will lighten the whole experience.”
And the most important thing to remember? Take responsibility for the things that are in your control: create opportunities for connection, reach out and say hello, and put yourself in environments with like-minded people. We’re all discovering this new normal together, so focus on doing what feels right for you.