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Guest column: Preparing for the “New Normal”

We need to be prepared that the "old normal" might not be coming back, and we don't know yet what the "new normal" is going to be.
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JANUARY 29: Photoshoot with Urszula Bunting, owner/operator of UB Well, LLC, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Longmont, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Timothy Hurst Photography)

It's been one year since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. 

Vaccinations bring hope that the virus can become less of a threat and we can get back to what we consider "normal." However, we, the world and our personal and professional lives have changed. 

We need to be prepared that the "old normal" might not be coming back, and we don't know yet what the "new normal" is going to be. 

During the last year, we've had to adjust to new circumstances, focus on surviving the pandemic, and take care of ourselves and our families. Many people embraced virtual platforms for work, school, and pleasure. We've learned how to get comfortable in front of the camera for virtual appointments, meetings, family gatherings, and fitness classes. 

According to statistics, the housing market has gone up, and the divorce rate has gone down. We spend more time in the kitchen and less eating out. We are more interested in purchasing pajamas and sweatpants and less excited about buying pants and high heels\. We've heard a lot lately that we, our nation and the world need to heal. 

The pandemic created a pressing need for healing physically, emotionally and mentally. However, healing is a process, not an event. Many of us experience pandemic fatigue and before we can heal, we need to rest and relax. When we feel rested, we have the energy to heal, carry on and handle new challenges related to reopening schools, businesses, medical and recreational facilities and creating the "new normal." 

For a few whose work or personal situations haven't changed that much, it's been plenty to "process and digest" — mentally, physically and emotionally. We can take good care of ourselves now, so whatever happens in the future, we can be optimistic, invigorated and ready to embrace new challenges while enjoying what we have been missing in the past year. 

Here are some ideas that can help energize our personal lives and boost our productivity at work.·     

Taking time off: Even one day off from work and other responsibilities can feel like a mini-vacation if you plan and organize it well. Start with letting everyone know you are not available during your scheduled time. Make a spa appointment or take a bath at home, spend time outdoors, order your favorite takeout dinner, meet or have a phone or Facetime conversation with someone you feel close to, read a book, make yourself a cup of tea and sip it slowly while listening to your favorite music. ·     

Moving the body: This might sound counterintuitive, but we often rest while being physically active. Our bodies are designed to move. We get physically and mentally tired from sitting too long. Start your day with a few minutes of movement while you are waiting for your coffee to finish brewing by stretching, dancing, jumping or do a few push-ups. Use your lunch break to take a walk outside or use a YouTube video to work out at home. Hire a personal trainer or take a fitness class to help you start a new routine.      

Eating for energy

Not all foods are created equal. Some foods provide energy so that we can function well and some require energy to process and digest them. We want to make choices that provide fuel for our bodies and minds: plenty of water, fresh fruits and vegetables (leafy greens), whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, animal-based proteins that are sustainable and humanely raised. Limiting sugar, fried and processed foods, and caffeinated and sugary drinks can make a big difference in how we feel at the end of the day and how we perform in the long run. 

Letting creative juices flow

Whatever your gifts are — writing, painting, drawing, singing, playing instruments, dancing, woodworking, planting gardens, sewing, baking, or knitting — cultivating this talent can provide rest from regular responsibilities and a break for our anxious minds. 

Schedule your time to include at least a few minutes of "checking-in" with your creative self, join an interest group, or look for a friend or an accountability buddy that will support you and your projects.·

Optimizing sleep

There is no better way to rest than getting a good night's sleep. During sleep, our bodies rejuvenate, repair, and heal. Our brains need sleep to store memories and sort out experiences from the previous day. The amount of time and quality of sleep matters: 7-9 hours (for adults) is the norm. Also, make sure you have a cool temperature, around 67 degrees, and darkness in your bedroom, a comfortable bed, go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, ideally 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and eat dinner no later than three hours before going to bed — this also applies to drinking alcohol. 

These healthy habits can make a big difference in how we sleep at night and how rested we are when we get up in the morning. 

We have become more resilient, but we are not immune to the adverse effects of the last year's events or the new challenges ahead. I invite you to take a moment and notice how you feel. Acknowledge your physical and emotional struggles and take inventory of events that affected you the most. Be thoughtful and compassionate towards yourself and create a plan to take care of yourself to move forward with your personal and professional life with wisdom and courage. We can thrive after the pandemic, but first, we need to rest, relax, and give ourselves time and space to heal. Ready or not, the "new normal" is on its way.  

About the writer: Urszula Bunting has been a long-time Longmont resident serving the Longmont community as a Yoga Teacher, National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach and writer. She is passionate about healthy living, mindful movement, and thriving communities. Urszula offers virtual yoga classes and shares healthy lifestyle tips and inspirations on her virtual platform at www.ubwell4life.com.