Last week as I was talking with clients, colleagues, and friends, I kept hearing the same thoughts voiced.
“I’m so tired.”
“Everything feels hard and I don’t know why.”
“Things that used to be easy just drain me now.”
It occurred to me that I was feeling the same way, and had been for a while. What is going on?
I believe that, for most of us, there has been a fundamental shift in our comfort zone – the place that is easy and comfortable. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that our comfort zones and stretch zones, the place were we start to become uncertain and uncomfortable, have traded places.
In fact, it seems our comfort zone is much smaller now than it was pre-pandemic. The graphic above illustrates this, with the left half showing what reality looked like for many people before the pandemic became part of our lives. On the right side of the graphic, what I’m calling ‘the new in-between’, you’ll see that much of what used to be in our comfort zone is now a stretch or, in some cases, even beyond that.
The things we used to take for granted –interacting face to face, grocery shopping, feeling safe in our workplace – now cause us stress. We expected that we would easily jump right back into our old comfort zone but dwelling there now makes us feel anxious. It’s no wonder we’re exhausted.
Having our comfort and stretch zones so different from yesterday is disorienting and is compounded by another fact: we have expectations that what used to be so natural should be easy again. But it is not.
At the height of the pandemic there was so much talk about “getting back to normal”. It’s what we all looked forward to and was the ray of hope that kept us going on our hardest days. I think we’re about as normal as we’re going to be for a while, but things still feel strange, and that surfaces a lot of emotions that drain our energy and challenge our resilience.
If you’re back in your office, you are probably wearing a mask. If you are meeting up with people socially again, you probably consider things like how crowded the venue might be. The new normal isn’t really normal at all. It is an in-between – not where we used to be and certainly not ‘normal yet’
In the next couple of weeks we’ll explore ways that we can navigate this disorienting period, which looks different for each of us, with a healthy dose of grace and understanding for ourselves and those around us.
For today, I encourage you to take care of yourself. Watch out for the ‘shoulds’ and pay attention to your honest energy needs so you don’t burn out. Most importantly, know that you are in good company as you take this unplanned journey.