Many of us have had to adapt to or take on new roles as of late. Many of us have had hardships or setbacks in our various endeavors. Unless you have lived through a worldwide pandemic before, you are new at this and are probably taking it as it comes. Despite most of us being first-timers in living through massive shut downs, social distancing and the like, we may be tempted to judge ourselves for how well we are functioning.
Parents who are trying to work from home while simultaneously keeping their kids focused on schoolwork may worry that they are not doing enough when they notice their kids losing interest in school work. Business owners may worry they aren't doing enough to recession proof their business. Others of us may worry there is something deeply wrong with us if we aren't waking up as chipper and excited for the day as we once were. Whatever our personal challenges are, it's easy to get caught up in not only worrying about our current circumstances, but also if there is something wrong with us for how we are handling those circumstances.
Those questions of Am I doing enough? and What should I expect of myself these days? may preoccupy our minds. To gain some perspective perhaps it would be helpful to ask ourselves, "what would I reasonably expect of any person going through a worldwide pandemic wherein most face to face social gatherings are forbidden, many businesses are temporarily closed, all sporting events have been cancelled/postponed, all schools have transitioned to online learning with a very short notice, playgrounds are closed, face coverings are required to shop at Costco, the L.A. Lakers were granted a forgivable emergency government loan ahead of many struggling small businesses"...shall we continue? It's clear that a tremendous amount of adaptation has been required as of late to get by, and again, most of us are new at this.
Perhaps the better questions to ask would be "How would I like to be doing given my current circumstances? and What would I like to see myself do next to adapt?" Thinking this way, rather than judging ourselves, or being worried how others might judge us, can provide us with a few helpful advantages:
It allows us to have interest in ourselves and what we truly want for ourselves. This is a growth mindset and thus opens the door to progress.
It utilizes parts of your brain involved with creative thinking, which differ from those involved in anxious or self-defeating thinking.
There is less room to focus on pleasing some imagined amorphous judge who is keeping tabs on our level of functioning. (Some people around us may be casting judgment at how we are doing, but if they are judging without helping or supporting us, what's it to them how we are doing?)
Hopefully pondering those questions helps us to continue to adapt to whatever challenges the pandemic brings us next. Even if this helps, we might be tempted to think "Once this is all over, life will be so much simpler and I will go back to functioning at a perfectly high level."
Well, this might be somewhat true, but the reality is, some new challenge will come along requiring new adaptations, and a whole new struggle. The good news is that everything mentioned here so far is generally applicable to any of us at any given point in our lives.
When in the future this is all over and we find ourselves again worrying about how we are doing and whether our level of functioning is enough, perhaps it would be helpful to again ask ourselves "what would I reasonably expect of any person who has gone through [Insert your life story with its specific challenges and resources]? And again more importantly "How would I like to be doing given my current circumstances? and What would I like to see myself do next to adapt?"
Best of luck,
Tyler Andrus, LCSW