I’m enjoying summer this year, and when I spend enough time outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine, I almost feel something close to “normal.”

Yes, the pandemic has somewhat loosened its grip on society and commerce—at least for vaccinated people. But it’s not done yet.

This hasn’t been a normal year for any of us. And I don’t want to suggest that we’ll be back to normal anytime soon. In fact, not returning to normal might be a good thing.

According to workplace surveys from before the pandemic, high percentages of the U.S. workforce were already stressed out, feeling overworked, and lacking work-life balance. But despite feeling overwhelmed to the point of burning out, many workers felt stuck, unable to make big changes.

But the pandemic disrupted business as usual.

The subsequent 12+ months of working in a very different way—sometimes remotely, sometimes with very different interactions—prompted many workers to reassess things—often things they never took time to consider before.

Some reconsidered the type of work they were doing, especially those in the service and hospitality sectors. Others realized that the way they were working was no longer working for them—especially those with a stressful commute to a long workday in an office far away from home and family obligations.

If these re-assessments lead to a happier, healthier, and more stable society, then perhaps the pandemic may have stimulated some positive change.

There is a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that suggests, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Indeed, rather than rushing back to “the way things used to be,” we are more likely to benefit from using this disruption as an opportunity to take stock of our lives.

Some good things to examine might be:

    • Do you do meaningful work? Is the work you do important to you? Does it feel like you are fulfilling your purpose? Does it fit with your strengths and weaknesses?

When you find meaningful work, it feels less like work and more like you’re doing what’s right for you. If the idea of doing what you did before or during the pandemic leaves you cold, pay attention to that. Be open to other possibilities.

    • How are your relationships? It’s helpful to build healthy connections outside of work so you have support, intellectual stimulation, and much needed relief from feelings of isolation and disconnection.

Human beings are social creatures, and we benefit from interacting with others—something we were sorely deprived of during the pandemic.

    • Are you paying attention to your feelings? Many of us are emotionally exhausted from the events of the past 18 months: The pandemic. Social unrest. Politics. We just feel like we need a break. That’s OK. Take a break!

Limit your discussion of things that get you worked up. Try to spend time each day consciously focusing on things that help you smile, relax, and feel happiness and gratitude.

    • What’s your intellectual fitness? Research shows a strong benefit to our cognitive health when we continue to learn new things throughout our life. Our brains can constantly grow and learn, but we need to do the work.

If you haven’t read a book in a while, that’s a good place to start. Puzzles, learning to play a new game or musical instrument, or even studying a foreign language can be great for brain health.

    • How’s your spiritual health? Do you feel like your job, relationships, friends and activities are aligned with your purpose and values? And do you live them out every day or at least feel like you can?

This requires careful, honest reflection. If you cannot live your values in your current situation, you may feel misaligned with the purpose of your life, which can lead to unhealthy life choices, stress, anxiety and depression.

    • How is your physical health? Do you get enough physical activity? Sleep? How’s your diet? If you can’t remember your last physical, schedule one now.

If you need help with any of the above, contact your EAP and set up a personal, confidential conversation with a counselor. To learn more about FEI’s EAP, please contact us.