In what feels like a past life, I was a labor and postpartum doula. I helped couples navigate their way through the early days of parenthood. What’s been striking to me lately, is how relevant the new parent advice is during this new normal of pandemic or quarantine life… in fact, much of it is pretty solid for ANY time in life, especially those of transition.
The overall theme of my new parent advice is “be nice to yourself”… Don’t expect to be able to do everything perfectly, or the way you used to, or the way you imagine you should be able to do it.
Different seasons call for different priorities, boundaries, and expectations. Respect when you’re in a new season, understand the impact it has on all aspects of your life, and be willing to adjust. Some seasons are for growth, some are for reflection, some are for perspective, and some are to shift. If you expect that your priorities and your focus will be the same throughout each new season, you’ll be left wondering what you’re doing wrong. It’s confusing and frustrating if you assume that you should always be the same, and then suddenly the things that used to come naturally and fill you with joy are now the things that drain your energy and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Before you jump into each day, assuming that you have to be the best at EVERYTHING, ask yourself what’s most important to you right now. Ask yourself what you’re doing simply because you feel like you’re supposed to. Amid transition and the unknown and times of uncertainty, we often look outside of ourselves for the answers and for validation. It can lead us to places, priorities, and expectations that are not authentic to ourselves, and that only serves to confuse and distract us. We’re seeking advice that might be wonderful and amazing for someone else but is entirely wrong for the season you’re in and the goals you’ve set. These aren’t the kind of questions other people can answer.
YOU get to choose your priorities, and in doing so, you declare that your values, needs, wants, and emotional well-being is more important than what others expect, or any other “shoulds” that you feel beholden to. You are saying, THIS is where I put my energy, and the rest I’ll let slide.
In each new season of your life, think about the things that bring you joy and cause you stress, the necessary things and the things that have alternatives. You can’t do everything, and you shouldn’t… so here’s how I categorize – Thrive, Survive, Maintain.
Thrive…This is where you pour your energy. These are the things where you are moving the needle, where you will grow and excel, and you will feel the most alive. Do these things!
Survive… You’re just making it through the day here. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary. Don’t linger – get in, get out, and be nice to yourself about it. For some, this has been pandemic-induced remote learning… and that’s ok.
Maintain… You’re definitely not throwing in the towel here, but you also aren’t expecting or working towards massive growth.
If you love to cook and that fills you with happiness, that’s a “thrive” item for you, make it a priority. If you hate it, make it a “survive” and order some take-out and call it a day! If you love your career and you feel alive at work, and like you’re making a difference, and you want to be all-in there – DO IT! Let go of the other stuff. Relationships, professional aspirations, exercise, reading, hobbies…decide where these all fall in this season right now. Nothing is forever.
Sometimes a pause to say, “I’m just going to survive here for right now, and I’ll pick it back up later,” is just the grace you need to get through your current season. Maybe you have some big, audacious goal, and right now, that’s all you can focus on, that’s where you want to thrive, and you’re willing to push everything else into a survive or maintain bucket. That’s ok. EVEN if some of those things are still important to you, it’s ok.
The bottom line is that you decide what goes in each category. If you look at your life and what you’re doing now and nothing is filling you with joy, and everything seems to make you feel like you’re constantly failing, overwhelmed, and just stuck, see if you can shift things around. Maybe you need a creative outlet. Maybe your once spotless house will collect a bit of dust while you break out old art supplies and thrive in a long lost hobby. Whatever that shift looks like, know that what you need will change over time.
You can’t do it all at once, and you can’t do it all forever.