Our #nextnormal... What comes after quarantine?
I've spent a little time reflecting the past few days about what comes next for my family and I after this quarantine is over. I have two small children, and every decision I make carries a great deal of weight.
It strikes me that I'm sure most of you are contemplating some of the same things, and that you may be struggling with what to do next as well. Questions such as how and when do we resume our "normal" lives remain unanswered. Ultimately, we will all have to figure things out for ourselves. In the midst of these decisions there's only one thing I know for sure, the show must go on. For those that may have experienced a job loss during this time, you may not have exactly the same show to go back to at the moment. Your intermission is simply extended a bit, and that is ok. In general, I think we're all feeling a bit derailed at the moment, so I thought we could explore this predicament together.
In my life, I've been derailed from my path a few times. Learning to bounce back and adapt is something I have gotten pretty good at. Having experienced significant set-backs in the past, I'm confident that I can find a way through this thing. I know in my heart that this too shall pass, and that the trick to getting back to normal has more to do with where with you're going than where you've been. In my opinion, we are not defined by the bad things that happen to us in our lives. Rather, we are defined by how we overcome them.
I thought I would share a few things I've learned from past experiences. These practices have moved me through difficult times, and through to the other side. Everyone is different, but for me confronting my fears and addressing my issues is helpful. I like to walk through the dark corners of my life, shake off the dust, and examine what I did and how I can move forward in a new and successful way.
If you're struggling with what to do to and if you're scared, focus on these areas one task at a time. I guarantee you that looking at these areas of your life will at the very least keep your mind occupied. Also, I have found that doing the below tasks aids in organizing my to-do list, concerns, thoughts and fears so that I can make important decisions.
1. Deeply examine your finances and where you are with your money.
You may be thinking, "Why is a career consultant preaching to me about my finances?" Well, I'll tell you. Your career and your financial health are linked in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY. In fact, you cannot unlink how you earn an income (aka your job) and your financial health.
If you've recently lost your job, it's important to closely examine how long you can realistically go without paycheck. I bring this up not to be insensitive (believe me, I have been there), but to encourage you to be brave, and to avoid sticking your head in the sand. There are some people whose entire defense mechanism surrounding their financial health when times get tough is to avoid the bills. I recommend that you face them.
I speak from experience when I say that you can never find peace if you are constantly worried about how to pay your bills or put food on the table. Also, it is nearly impossible for anyone to make wise decisions while experiencing financial distress. You need to know EVERYTHING about your finances. The ins and outs. The ups and downs.
I truly believe that with good financial health, you will begin to thrive in every other way. I'm not talking about making a lot of money... I'm talking about being financially healthy and responsible. There are a large number of people who earn high incomes, but also do not know how to manage their finances. Learn to make your money behave, and you will be more focused in every other area of your life as well.
Now, admittedly this a scary step, but a necessary one. You may know you can't pay your bills, but do you know down to the penny how much debt you are carrying? Do you have a 401K or any savings to speak of? Do you know how much money you need to survive and then thrive? Have you called all of your bill collectors and worked out a payment plan, deferred payments, or made a plan for the bills you can't pay right now? These steps are important.
I believe one of the reasons job losses have been particularly difficult on Americans is due largely in part to the fact that that many Americans are in debt up to their ears. In fact, I read a Forbes article a while back which claimed that 63% of Americans could not afford a $500 crisis. That's not good. With that being said and if this is you at the moment, you are normal.
Don't beat yourself up if you're this person right now. That's not fair, and everyone has made financial mistakes. When you know better, you do better. Consider yourself fortunate if you recognize that you have made mistakes, and also recognize that this is your opportunity to do better moving forward.
The best thing you can do right now is to be determined to create a better financial future for yourself. I encourage you to get focused on this issue, and to make a commitment to changing your life starting with your finances.
If you uncover through working through your finances that you are debt or need a a better plan, I highly recommend you read The Total Money Makeover. It will change your life.
Even if you're still gainfully employed, this is an essential step in your life. You never know what may happen in the future. I think we can all agree that if this quarantine has taught us anything, it is that you must create your own financial stability.
Lastly, by taking these steps you may discover that you're in a much better position financially than you originally suspected. Perhaps you don't have to go back to work full-time, or maybe you realize that you want to start your own business. There are so many ways to look at this, but it all starts with sizing up your finances.
2. Take inventory of your goals and where you want to be in the future.
Do you want to just get back to the way things were, or do you want to mix it up and change directions? What have you implemented during this time that you want to carry with you down the road?
My husband is really loving the work from home life, as I'm sure many others are as well. If this is you, perhaps you should speak with your employer and attempt to make this a part-time or full-time arrangement moving forward.
I highly recommend that you assess your NEW goals, and then write them down. Next, create an actual plan to reach those goals.
3. Evaluate what has worked during quarantine, and what has NOT worked.
To fully work through this process, I recommend writing two lists... What's working/What's not working. I tell you, now is the time to make large shifts in your thinking before you jump into another transition or routine. You cannot decide where you're going until you've evaluated where you have been.
Have you learned that you want more time with your family? Have you prioritized fitness and your health?
Or, have you gone the other way and been dipping into the wine a little too much? Have you eaten everything in sight and abandoned your exercise routine?
Has this quarantine changed any of your relationships? What about your belief system? For many of us, the change in routine, the threat to our health, and the threat to our rights has shaken us to our cores. That's ok. Explore that and figure out what you believe now and how to move forward in every area.
You may determine that you're being led towards becoming more politically aware. You may decide to walk away from certain relationships.
Perhaps your mental health needs some serious attention. What about your marriage? Quarantine for many of us has been tough. Its okay to admit you need some help and to take action towards getting the help you need. Mental health professionals are in every city, so do some research and find the best one that will work for you.
There are also a number of mental health and meditation apps out there right now as well. If you're on a budget (and everyone is) I suggest trying out one of the below options.
4. Do your research.
Now that you've evaluated your finances, your relationships, your goals, your mental health, and then determined that you're ready to get out there again do a bit more research.
Speak with your doctor or your pediatrician if you’re considering going back to work or sending your children to school or daycare. Do some research on the new-infection and hospitalization rate in your state and city.
The news can be misleading at times. There's a wealth of knowledge on the internet, but not all sources are created equal. Every state is different, and every person's underlying health conditions are unique. Ultimately, you have to make an educated determination for your family based on where you live, the relative risk to your health, the type of work you do, your financial situation, etc.
This is where you develop an action plan in regards to how and when you go back to work, and how and when you send your kids back to school. Obviously, its summer time now, but this advice is applicable if your children are attending a summer daycare or day-camp program as well.
A few specific questions to consider are:
- Are you going to hang out with just a few select folks?
- Are you planning to continue wearing PPE while grocery shopping and in the office?
This is all about you and what you decide for your family. Just know what you’re comfortable with, and stick to your guns.
If decision making continues to be a challenge for you, I recommend checking out the linked article below to help you with the process.
5. Take action! Whenever YOU decide WHAT that action will be.
The time is approaching for us all to re-enter society.
We can't all stay at home forever and our lives are waiting for us. At this point, if you have gone through this process you should have all your ducks in a row. You should also have made a good plan for every area of your life. Now its time to get out there again... responsibly.
With that being said, I encourage you to implement the plans and steps you created after going through this process. The goal is to take back a bit of your life and the joy that living brings. My feelings are that now is the time we prove how adaptable we are, and get back to living our #nextnormal.
Yes, things will be different for a while, but it is possible for us all to have successful careers again, thriving relationships, and good mental and physical health after all of this passes. I encourage you to maintain a positive attitude, take baby steps, and to take care of your mind and your body. In the end, that's what always been the most important thing anyway.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, I'd love it if you could share how you are moving towards your #nextnormal as well.
Have a great week!