It seems like, within the blink of an eye, we’re back living in the world as usual! And it feels great. But one thing that we may benefit from as we reenter our busy lives is pausing to rethink our priorities.
I recently sat down with Dr. Barbara Green, co-founder of the Center for Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Hingham, MA, to discuss the idea of taking time to reevaluate our choices and taking stock of what we’ve learned over the past 15 months. By doing so we can learn to reap the benefits of our discoveries.
Let’s take a look:
How can we begin to rethink our priorities?
RCG: Hi Dr. Green! I’m curious to hear your views on best moving forward into our new lives with more certainty. How exactly do we evaluate our options?
Dr. Green: As we come out of 15 months that were unlike anything we’ve ever lived through before, I like to use the term curating.
I think the idea is:
- being very mindful, intentional, and deliberate to understand what we’ve been through,
- taking time to reflect upon and absorb meaning and lessons,
- and translating them as we come out of having been in lockdown to consider what’s next.
And what do we want next?
Do we want to go back to business as usual?
I find many women are saying, “No!” We’ve had this time to reevaluate and reassert boundaries, and we don’t want to go back into the same routines and commitments as before.
Rethinking our boundaries – external versus internal:
RCG: It feels like we’ve had different boundaries forced upon us during the pandemic.
Dr. Green: It’s interesting to note that they were externally imposed. That gave us a chance to evaluate our internal boundaries. Now we get to reemerge in a new way. We can curate our choices based on mindfulness and feelings while also considering the needs of others around us.
RCG: What do you think is an easy way to rethink our boundaries as we sort through everything in front of us?
Dr. Green: There are things in life we have to do, and there are things in life we don’t have to do – and we get to choose. And boundaries are about being able to inhabit the honor of saying yes or no.
Getting clear on what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
RCG: During this time, I’ve discovered that the unexpected things made me this happy. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy this quiet time. Likewise, I didn’t know how much I would miss my day-to-day life.
This time of reentry is a great time to reinvent. It’s like a brand new start. You can do it any way you want to.
What are some strategies to help wrap our minds around this curation process?
Dr. Green: Start by thinking about what feels good? Also, what gives you a sense of positive wellbeing? Be mindful of feelings of the needs and the have-tos, and the desires of the want-tos. Not everything is a have-to!
RCG: Yes, we do have way more by choices than we realize. There are many things I think I have to do – but I really don’t.
Reevaluating the importance of our connection to others (in terms of rethinking our priorities).
RCG: While reconnecting with people after lockdown, I found it really easy to notice where I feel positive vibes and resonance. I know I sense it very dramatically. Other times I realize – well… I like this person, but it’s not the same.
Dr. Green: I recently read a fascinating article by evolutionary psychologist Barbara Dunbar that describes the levels of connection that we can sustain.
Interestingly, the truth is that we all only have so much bandwidth. We must choose wisely.
RCG: Yes – that’s very true.
Dr. Green: It’s a great time to question who’s in our inner soul circle.
RCG: This is the time to figure that out and to invest in these people.
Are you an introvert, extrovert, or hybrid?
RCG: This was an eye-opening time for me to discover that I’m both an introvert and an extrovert. I need alone time to recharge, and I learned that I’m more productive and generally happier when I plan to get out of the house and socialize or just be around others.
Also, I know that I really missed people. I missed being together in physical form – not zoom. So I guess I’m a hybrid.
Dr. Green: Taking a closer look at what kinds of social interactions bring joy is an important part of reevaluating and rethinking our boundaries.
Being forced into isolation had all of us confronting our wants, needs, and preferences. It’s interesting to discover more about who we really are.
Having compassion for everyone’s timeline.
Dr. Green: It’s important to recognize everyone’s timeline for recovering from this unprecedented time.
People are burned out. The emotional toll of uncertainty, powerlessness, and helplessness can’t be underestimated. Before we got the vaccine all we could do was distance, lockdown, wear masks, and handwash. Those were our only four tools!
RCG: LOL! I shouldn’t laugh – but that’s so crazy and true. We were forced into a unique way of life.
Dr. Green: And now we’re dealing with the fallout.
PTSD is only experienced when you’re past the trauma.
It’s important to honor where people are emotionally. Everyone has had a very different experience with this.
Wrapping it all up – self-care is the bottom line in terms of rethinking our priorities:
Dr. Green: Self-care is so critical. In fact, the American Psychological Association recently directed that it’s ethically imperative to practice self-care. That’s how important it is.
RCG: So interesting. And this unlikely opportunity gave us the chance to rethink our priorities hugely. Now that we’ve had the time to pause and take a closer look, we can move forward with more self-awareness and self-kindness.
Dr. Green: Exactly! What’s important is understanding what we’ve gained from slowing down, becoming quiet, and rethinking our priorities. Let’s take the time to integrate so that we can move forward in the healthiest way possible.