If you’re like me and everyone I know, you’re sick of talking about the pandemic (and wearing masks).
But when I noticed my lack of enthusiasm about . . . well, everything, I began to worry that this roller coaster ride we’ve been on for the last two years had cut into my spirit.
I noticed my lack of interest in initiating social events, even though I feel relatively safe spending time with others under certain conditions. I noticed I started to prefer events on Zoom, as it was easier than getting in the car and bothering with addresses and parking. Even the thought of traveling, something that has always brought me joy, was clouded by concerns that another variant could cause the trip to be canceled.
One day I casually said it aloud: During a conversation with my partner, Matthew, I mentioned how I wasn’t excited about anything. And in saying those words, simply by talking about it, I noticed a shift in me. I became less resigned and more curious. Wow, that’s interesting, I thought. That’s new. What’s going on? How do I feel about my lack of enthusiasm?
To be honest, even while I was asking myself those questions, I resisted the truth. Maybe this is just a natural part of the aging process: more birthdays = smaller dreams. I second-guessed my self-perceptions about my lack of excitement because it made me sad and uncomfortable to think about.
How is the Pandemic Affecting You?
The same week I shared my feelings with Matthew, one of my girlfriends talked about how she was feeling, and I was struck by how similar her sentiments were to mine – unenthused, joyless, complacent. In particular, she was sad about how in a yoga class she takes with seven other masked women, they don’t speak or even know each other’s names. Masks have become a barrier to connection. My friend is about a decade younger than I am. So it’s not just about being 68 years old, I thought. It must really be the pandemic blues.
I have another friend who used to travel a lot for work but now, because of the pandemic, works from home. She lamented how she just kind of wanders aimlessly from one room of her house to another sometimes. I relate. And if I’m truthful, there’s a part of me I don’t like who has become comfortable being housebound. A part that thinks, I’m glad things are on Zoom now because it’s easier to wear sweatpants and control the temperature of my own environment.
But I decided to check myself because I didn’t want to get too comfortable with that part of me. I’ll call that part of me Complacent Joanna. I wasn’t happy with the habits Complacent Joanna was developing. I was afraid Complacent Joanna was learning to accept things the way they are even if my soul wasn’t satisfied with them. So, I decided to resist Complacent Joanna, and I invite you to take a look inside and see whether something similar is going on with you.
Resisting the “New Normal”
Are you getting comfortable in the new normal in ways that aren’t truly comfortable? Not to your soul?
Are you longing for something . . . else . . . but don’t know where to find it in the midst of a global pandemic?
Are you as ready to do something about it as I was?
If these questions resonate with you, I’ve got you covered. I’ve made some shifts in my own thought patterns and daily routines, and I’ve summed them up in . . .
Four Action Steps to a Better Pandemic
Acknowledge something isn’t quite right and be curious about it. Ask yourself, What story am I telling myself?
In my case, I had begun telling myself that I was just doing what was expected of me at age 68 – people my age are satisfied; they don’t need big goals anymore. I had also begun telling myself that I really didn’t mind my lack of motivation and excitement. So, I examined those storylines with curiosity.
Ask yourself, How do I feel when I acknowledge that story?
Once I asked myself this question, it didn’t take me long to admit that the story I’d been telling myself was making me sad. Not only that – it was contributing to my lack of interest in the future. It was a huge step in the right direction. To realize that the story I’d been telling myself was actually perpetuating my lack of enthusiasm about . . . everything.
Ask yourself, What’s really true for me here?
When I asked this of myself, I realized the truth that I’m longing for more excitement. I’m longing for that feeling of aliveness that used to accompany me everywhere. I’m longing to not feel stagnant and like I’ve fallen into a tired routine. I want to do something, and I want it to be and feel different from the other things I’ve been doing during the pandemic.
Identify one action (just one!) that will move you out of your comfort zone and help move you forward.
Now, this is important.
Moving out of your comfort zone means truly being uncomfortable, taking a risk that creates some discomfort. In my case, I realized my work had become my comfort zone. I do take time to meditate most mornings. Otherwise, I get up and get on the computer to continue building this business I started two years ago. So, to be out of my comfort zone means doing something that takes me away from that work, something that forces me to commit to expansion in a different direction.
Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone
Just thinking about stepping away from my work made me feel uncomfortable. Work has become a reflex, something I prioritize automatically. That’s when I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone by committing to a class a friend was offering during work hours. I would need to make space in my schedule to attend. I would need to be very present during the sessions, not multitasking like I do most hours of most days.
In addition, I decided to change my mindset about cooking. I love to eat, but I dread the time it takes to prepare a meal and am usually disappointed with the results. To push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to learn to be a better cook by choosing 21 recipes I felt excited to try. And then I made a meal planning and shopping list, which I’ve been following. I asked Matthew to help me with the food prep, set an earlier time to stop working, and found a great website with food choices that appeal to me ( the Minimalist Baker – it’s terrific!) If you enjoy cooking, this may not sound like a big deal to you but taking a risk doesn’t have to be life-threatening. Now I’m finding I look forward to cooking and am usually happy with the results (plus I’m feeling better too because I’m eating better.)
Find Your New Approach to Beating the Pandemic
For you, stepping out of your comfort zone might look different. Maybe for you, it will be making that phone call you’ve needed to make or having a difficult conversation. Maybe you’ve lost some connection with your partner or with a friend, and your action will be reconnection. Perhaps you’re avoiding shopping because you’ve put on some pandemic pounds and want to wait until you lose the weight. If that’s you, it sounds like it’s high time you took yourself to the mall.
Stepping outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean you need to go climb Mount Everest. I’m talking about one step here (one!). Something small but significant. Something that will break up your normal routine and challenge that story you’ve been telling yourself.
And once you’ve grown past those pandemic blues, get in touch and let me know how it feels!
“It’s only after you step out of your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” – Roy T Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart.