How to Create a “New Normal’ That Feels Good
I flip open my calendar and stare at the blank squares. During the workday, I’m still quite busy—working on my book, developing recipes, writing these blog posts for you.
But my evenings and weekends are pretty empty aside from the usual cooking and cleaning. I go to the farmer's market every Sunday, but I haven’t been to a dinner party, a brunch with my friends, or a board meeting in months.
And I miss some of it! But I don’t miss all of it—the meetings, the social obligations, the commitments I took on because I felt like I “should.”
I imagine I’m not alone in this. I imagine you’ve experienced some version of this, too—the joy and freedom of an empty calendar.
As things inch towards a new version of “normal” and we gradually begin to see more invitations in our inboxes, let’s take a moment to pause and consider:
As we’re re-filling our lives + calendars, what do we truly want them to include?
We’ve been given an opportunity to see what life is like without all those commitments. Because let’s face it: Being overly committed begins to get heavy. We now have the gift of actively choosing what we want to opt back into.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself
What friendships do you want to return to? Some of us have reconnected with old friends during this time. We’ve had Zoom trivia nights with friends from college and Google Hangout happy hours with childhood friends we usually only hear from via holiday cards. And this has felt fun and wonderful and supportive!
Or maybe—with a bit of time and distance—we’ve realized that we’ve outgrown certain friendships. When we’re not regularly seeing that person at school pick up or yoga class, we completely forget they exist.
Most cringingly, maybe this has been a welcome breather from a few friendships that had turned toxic.
As we start to ease back into “normalcy” and more people begin to socialize, ask yourself: “Which of these friendships do I want to maintain going forward?” and then fill your calendar accordingly. Choose people who are good for your health, both mentally and physically. The kind that GIVE you energy rather than drain it.
What groups and commitments do you want to return to? Have you been inwardly groaning over your book club for years? Or those long school board meetings?
Maybe you thought you loved your running club. But after three months of hitting the trails on your own, you realize you’re actually much more energized by solo running than pounding the pavement in a group of 8.
Look through your calendar from January and February of this year. What were your time commitments? Which meetings did you attend? How did you feel afterwards? If an on-going commitment drained you, consider this permission to opt-out! Permanently.
Did your kids really miss all those lessons, tutors, and practices? If you have kids in your life, you’re extremely familiar with the delicate dance of scheduling all their various lessons, practices, and after-school activities. And you’re familiar with the drudgery of getting them to and from all those lessons, practices, and after-school activities.
All those activities have been on hold for the last few months—how did your kids feel about that? And how did they fare with the inevitable online replacement?
Of course, your child probably misses a few of these activities—seeing all their friends in person for lacrosse practice or working on a scene together for the one-act play. Doing a soccer workout they found on YouTube isn’t quite the same as a team practice.
But I bet your kid was quietly glad to have some downtime and to drop the super packed schedule. So before you re-up for another year of activities, have an honest conversation with your kids about what worked, what they missed, and what can be left behind. You’ll save your family so much time, money, and stress!
Which patterns did you inadvertently break that you don’t want to return to? It’s easy to fall into a weekly pattern - dinner + drinks with friends on Friday, popping into some boutiques on Saturday, Sunday brunch, Tuesday date night dinner + a movie. But over the last few months, we’ve all been forced to break those patterns.
Maybe you realized that a hike + a picnic helps you connect to your partner more than sitting side by side in a movie theater ever did.
Maybe you’ve been baking your way through banana bread recipes on weekend mornings and that feels way more meaningful than another brunch reservation.
Maybe you’ve been “shopping your closet” and enjoying the challenge of making new outfits with things you already own.
Or maybe you just have a renewed appreciation for restaurants, movie theaters, and boutiques - also okay!
Either way, consider the patterns this strange time has broken. Which ones will you run towards and which ones are you ready to retire?
Of course, we’ve always been able to opt-out of obligations, friendships, and commitments. But this time has given us the gift of forcing us to consider what no longer serves us. Let’s take advantage of it!