The ‘New Normal’… Um, How Do You Do That, Exactly?

By The Inspired Investor TeamNovember 24, 2022

Wellness counsellor Amy Deacon shares simple ways to help navigate the post-pandemic world.

Maintaining balance and focusing on wellbeing during the height of the pandemic took a monumental effort – and often felt out of reach. Now that we’re solidly into a post-pandemic world, things should be getting back to normal, right? But what is normal now?

Returning to previous routines, whether in a professional or personal capacity, is working well for some, but many are finding it difficult to figure out next steps. According to Amy Deacon, Founder and CEO of Toronto Wellness Counselling, there’s no single, right way to cope with all that’s happening – and similar to the pre-pandemic world, a lot depends on your individual needs and responsibilities.

“Think of it like this. How do you play defense when the stressors of life are coming your way? How do you protect yourself and the things that matter the most? Take inventory of your struggles and let’s start to make little markers of where we want to pay attention,” Deacon says.

In a recent conversation with RBC, Deacon shared a number of simple ways to start to make sense of our new normal, and how to embrace both the challenges and opportunities we face while still making wellness a top priority. (Hint: it means finding fun!)

Build connections

“The lockdown has suppressed people’s appetite for social connection, and it’s important to build that connection up again,” Deacon says.

With many companies adopting a hybrid work model, Deacon says it’s time to reconnect with colleagues as a way to rebuild our social ties. Reconnecting with co-workers not only strengthens your work together, it can be good for your mental health. “The workplace is one of the few places that we can meet people on a consistent and regular basis. Take that opportunity to grab a coffee with your colleagues. It’s good for your brain and our social fabric.”

While you don’t have to enjoy working with every colleague (understatement!), Deacon says connections at work are important. “It’s like eating broccoli, you might not like the taste initially, but in the long run you’re really going to benefit from it,” she says. “We need relationships, and it’s one of the most predictable factors that will determine the quality of our lives, as well as the quality of our mental health and resilience.”

Acknowledge your emotions

It’s okay to feel all the feels.

The first step toward managing negative emotions is learn to sit with them, Deacon says. Take anger. “If you sit with your anger and let it pulse through your body, it will probably pass in 90 seconds. You need to learn to ride through it,” she says. It’s often when we avoid or numb our emotions that they really take over, she adds.

Deacon points to the pandemic as an opportunity to learn how to manage emotions. One of the things you could do, she says, is to let bad emotions run their course. Journal them out, speak with a therapist, do a workout to sweat out the stress. All of these activities help to create a bit more calm and clarity.

That’s because most sour emotions will pass, she says. The next thing to do is try to figure out what gives you joy in life. Does playing with your pet calm you down? Do you get a charge out of playing pickleball? What about planning a weekend away or doing some creative?

“It’s been a brutal time, but it’s such a great opportunity to teach young people how to take care of themselves. It’s a chance to get them more mental-health literate,” she says.

For Deacon, spending time with her two young daughters reminds her that joy doesn’t always have to be complicated.

Set boundaries and priorities

To many of us, being busy is just a way of life these days and priorities can sometimes get lost. Zero in on how and where we devote our energy, Deacon says.

“We want to accomplish as much as we can, but it’s important as an individual and a team to understand what our priority is,” Deacon says. She suggests a few questions to ask yourself to help figure it out: “When my day is done, what do I most need to be accomplished? What do I most want to cross off? And what are some of the things I can leave to the next day?”

Setting boundaries is just as crucial.

“Sometimes we just push through,” Deacon says. “Is the entire world going to collapse because you take a 20-minute walk outside? Probably not.” Setting boundaries not only helps us prioritize better, it’s a way to remind ourselves of the ultimate goals that matter.

“To set boundaries, you have to ask yourself: what in your life are you trying to protecting? Are you trying to protect your mental health? Are you trying to protect your productivity? Or are you trying to protect your physical health? Your relationships, dating life or time with your kids?” says Deacon.

Limit social media

Breaking our mindless scrolling habits can be tough, but Deacon cautions against the all-too-easy habit of reaching for social media.

“Research has shown that when we’re on social media, we’re more likely to log off after 20 minutes of usage feeling anxious and depressed,” she says.

Instead, use that scrolling time for activities that lift you up and give you energy. Deacon has some suggestions: Why not listen to some fun music or call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while? Or maybe you’ll finally get to that great podcast everyone’s been talking about.

Giving yourself a break from social media can give you space to reflect and unwind, Deacon says. “You don’t need to hear everyone’s opinion. You don’t need to be inundated with so many voices. We need to learn to spend more time offline in real life with real people.”

The new normal will be different for everyone, but as Deacon says, understanding your own needs, responsibilities and priorities can help you find the path forward—which is very much worth it.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.