How do I manage expectations for post-COVID life?

I’m sure you’re not alone in hoping for a magic moment, a day when life re-starts. Some of the same traditions that trip us up in the first month of a calendar year can apply here, too.

I love a fresh start. I’ve stopped, though, making big resolutions. Like most resolution-makers, I used to set the bar too high, and then I’d feel like a failure when I didn’t meet it. Eventually I realized that the whole experience sucked some of the joy out of my life, so I stopped. 

"If we change your habits, we change our lives." Gretchen Rubin.

I think the same thinking applies to setting expectations for post-pandemic (we hope!) life. We’ll be happier, I think, if we think in terms of making small changes instead of having a suddenly shiny new life. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, writes that habits “are the invisible architecture of daily life…. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

If sweeping resolutions and grand life designs work for you, congratulations! But there is no time like the present to remember that trick of talking to yourself the way you’d talk to a good friend. Be kind, and be patient with yourself, especially if your isolation during the pandemic has been extreme. Swap out resolutions and high expectations for evolution and a comfortable path forward. Ask yourself, “What is one incremental, specific change I can make that will help me move toward that goal?” Here are a few examples related to getting your health back on track (guessing you may have been one of those who reported the “COVID 15,” the typical weight gained during this more sedentary time):

  • Eat healthier. I’ll eat carrots at lunch instead of chips on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Have a better relationship with my partner. I’ll say or text one affirming thing to my partner every day.
  • Get out of my rut. Once a month, I’ll go to an art gallery/museum/park/cafe that I’ve never gone to before.
  • Take better care of myself. I’ll be in bed by 10:30 every night.

You might pick one area that you see as a priority to get back to where you want it. Once it has become habit, you can choose something new.

Don’t give up on getting your life “back on track,” whatever that means for you. Just try a more realistic and gentle approach and see what happens. Good luck and let us know how it goes!