The Opportunity to Create a “New Normal”

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A couple of days ago I live-tweeted an Additude webinar called “ADHD Life: Reassessing Goals and Priorities after a Pandemic.” Since then I’ve continued to ponder what I learned from it and how the principles shared can help us as we continue to work through this life-altering shutdown. It’s well worth your time to listen to the whole thing.

Since a statewide shutdown due to Covid-19 was enacted in mid-March, my daily routine has completely changed. This includes the way I live, work, socialize, eat, play…you get the idea. Working as a school principal, I was used to commuting an hour each way. Because of the drive, I was getting up much earlier than I naturally do (5:30am- blech!). Having two hours of total drive time per day also allowed me ample time to listen to audiobooks. I probably went through 20 audiobooks during the first two-thirds of the school year. In the evenings I would return home, sometimes making it to family dinner, and sometimes not.

I now work out of our upstairs guest bedroom. I get to sleep in longer than I used to, and my truck has been sitting idle for nearly two months. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in that time, and I haven’t been face-to-face with any of my teachers or students, though I am still working with them every day. Work now consists of a series of daily Zoom meetings. And where I used to leave my office and walk through classrooms or run to help with a situation…all is now accomplished from my chair. So there are many days where I spend 7 or more hours simply sitting in the same chair in that upstairs bedroom staring at a screen while I do my work online.

Home and family are different too of course. My children no longer attend school. They are completing learning activities, some online, some not. But mostly they’re doing a splendid re-creation of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat. Though we are surrounded by wonderful parks and beaches, nearly all are completely closed to the public. Restaurants and theaters are also closed, along with most stores. Life has basically become one long episode of Groundhog Day as we live and repeat the same, sad, quarantine routine every single day.

It’s time to reframe

I’ll admit that I’m grieving for the way life used to be, and I’ve spent many of these shutdown days sitting around wishing I could go do things I’m used to doing. This week my state governor extended our “stay home, stay safe” plan for yet another month and that hit me pretty hard. But then I was able to think back on this webinar that I’d watched just one day earlier, and I’ve got a much better outlook on things now. It all starts with reframing our situation.

Yes, this situation has dramatically altered our lives. And it’s not likely to get anywhere close to “normal” soon. So it’s time to accept that this is the “new normal” and figure out what’s next.

With work, we are no longer constrained by school buildings, traditional schedules, or even student groupings. It has opened up many new possibilities for tailoring instruction to students and giving teachers and students new opportunities to interact through technology that many had only heard about before. We are being encouraged to try new things, experiment with new ways of teaching and learning and connecting, and students and teachers alike have become more excited and engaged as they’ve begun to let go of how we used to do things.

At home the change has been slower. But I’ve come to the realization that being cut off from most of my regular routine means that I can literally create a new one. How many projects have I put off for years, and how many old hobbies did I give up simply because I didn’t have the time? Well time is something I happen to have a lot of right now!

So how do you start?

You’ve had virtually everything in your life cleared from the deck, and now you get to decide what goes back in, and what stays out. Start by dividing up your life into categories like these:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Social relationships
  • Fun
  • Career
  • _____

Once you’ve got what feels like a pretty comprehensive list, rate how you feel about your current status with each area. You could do this with numbers (1-5 as an example) or even with coloring a chart or graph where fuller and bigger mean better.

After rating each area, you can decide what to do about it. Feeling great about family? Perfect. Leave it as-is and focus on the other areas. Concerned about health? Perhaps you used to go to the gym but now it’s been closed for two months and you haven’t walked farther than from the couch to the refrigerator in that time? Why not start by talking short walks around the block? Do you miss connecting with friends and socializing as you used to? You could set up a video chat or a virtual game night.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that it’s not about setting and achieving goals. It’s about feeling better and finding peace and greater happiness in a pandemic. So whether you call it a goal or not, add in to your life things that will make you happy and let go of things that won’t. Find new ways to connect with friends and family members who you no longer get to visit. Work on a project that is fun and meaningful to you. Make plans to do things that you love that maybe you haven’t had time for in a while.

If you take stock of your situation you will find hidden opportunities that you’ve been missing. If all else fails, just try something new. And don’t worry about doing it perfectly. There’s power in simply doing. Jessica (@HowToADHD) put it best in song:

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Author: Jamie

At 37 I went to therapy and after two hours she asked if anyone had ever talked to me about ADHD. Surprise! I'm @ADHDsurprise on Twitter.

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