It’s been over a year since I’ve expressed my inner world in the form of a blog (can you believe it!?). I miss the mental & emotional processing that writing has to offer. For the last few years, writing has been my way to untangle the emotional threads, and organize my brain in a way to be able to share the deeper part of myself — even if no one else ever reads it.
For the last 16 months, I’ve been growing my inner world, but haven’t felt the confidence to share it outwardly, yet. As someone who needs to look at the big picture, I can find it hard to articulate all the pieces when they haven’t fully come together yet. Due to this lack of confidence and clarity, I would find myself comparing my experience to others around me (ahhh, I hate to admit that, but I have those thoughts, too). Why does everyone around me look like they have it all together, and I’m just trying to get through the work week, and socialize a little without having to take two naps during the day to get by?
Then I realized, there are two main ways people process big events like the pandemic: internalizers and externalizers. Externalizers show up in my world as the person that never stopped posting on social media, reinvented themselves quickly, and had the energy to wear more than pajamas to run errands — at least that’s what it looked like to me. They would keep busy, find ways to occupy their time, and manage to seem functional. Internalizers (aka folks like me) turned inward, slowed down, and handling daily tasks turned into managing the daily rollercoaster of emotions. They (we) would lose track of the last time they showered, had a hard time keeping a normal schedule, or took on other hermit-like behaviors to get by. But, this doesn’t mean we weren’t all having a range of emotions, it just meant it looked a little different on the outside.
To save you the mental space, I won’t spell out any of the various spaces I’ve moved through over the last year and a half, or how many times I forgot to brush my teeth. I’ll jump right into where I’m at now, and specifically what questions started to pull me back into alignment with myself. No matter how your process looks, we can all benefit from asking ourselves these questions.
The first question that came up — and I think most of us entertained this at some point — was inquiring, “how do we get back to normal?” I tried sitting with this question for weeks, but it only made me feel more depressed. How can we go back to normal, when our old normal no longer exists? And, to be frank, who wants to live in the past or move backward? I sure don’t; my entire career and lifestyle is based upon supporting others in how to move forward — physically, emotionally, and mentally, so they can connect more deeply with themselves.
Contemplating the idea of moving forward, I started to see a pattern. No matter how hard someone tried to “adjust to normal”, I kept seeing an internal obstacle that was slowing them down. This led me to start asking the question, “what keeps draining our inner resources?” So many of us are doing our best, trying to get by, and recover from last year, but why is it still so daunting? The answer that came through was, because our expectations — around what the world should look and be like — were out of alignment with reality.
What eventually pulled me through was asking, “how do I manage these expectations?” Every interaction we have is either replenishing or depleting our resources. When we engage in too many activities that deplete our energy, we then start to operate from an energy deficiency. Moving through life at this pace for too long will charge a tax on your health and well-being, digging a hole so deep it can feel hard to find our way out again.
Having too many unrealistic expectations (like going back to normal, expecting yourself to operate at the same capacity you had pre-pandemic, etc) can drain our ability to function in the world. This is why our output is so very, very different than it was a year ago. And, it’s important to work with what’s right in front of you, instead of trying to apply a lifestyle to a life that no longer exists.
The top two resource drains I’ve noticed:
- Expectations of self
- How long does it take to do something?
- How much can you handle in a day?
- Expectations of others
- What support looks like, when my partner or friends are also dealing with more.
- Capacity for socializing or social interaction.
When trying to navigate these expectations, I’ve found that the most helpful strategies include creating more personal time to reflect, then protecting it. And, while you’re reflecting, check in to see where your energy might be being drained, and adjust your expectations or actions to support your current needs. It’s okay that things have changed, and you are operating at an adjusted capacity; it’s okay that others are, too.
We have so little control over our external environment, but we do have a responsibility around how we respond to and act in the world we live in. Now more than ever we have the space to think, start fresh, prioritize, and reinvent what wasn’t working.