Do you have mixed feelings about going “back to normal?” The past year has required many changes to our routines and socialization. The pandemic precautions included the cessation of so many activities. We stopped going to school. We stopped eating out. We stopped exercising in gyms or studios. We stopped gathering at church. We stopped having large social gatherings like weddings and concerts and town halls. We stopped attending sporting events. We stopped so many things that are centered around being together and enjoying our days. 

As the hopes for our communities to develop immunity and move beyond COVID now seem to be a foreseeable reality, I’m noticing I’m feeling nervous. There are many aspects of this time that have been simpler, less rushed, quieter, and calmer than the way life was before. I’m contemplating how to move forward, holding on to these ways of living.

During the past seven months, I went through treatment for breast cancer. I am beyond grateful to now be cancer-free. I am regaining strength (and hair on my head) and am structuring my days, keeping my health and rest as priorities. The treatment process provided me a lot of time to contemplate how to I want to live each day. One of the overwhelming changes for me is that I don’t want to resume “the hustle.” I love the work I do in partnering with clients to build healthy lives, but on top of work, I had layered too many pressures.  I’m clear that I don’t want to do that now. I’m also clear that a healthy life for me includes planning and maintaining space for activities like making my favorite purple cabbage and cilantro salad, sitting in the sun, having a cup of tea and taking a walk. 

As I resumed my work schedule, I have struggled with fear – fear of forgetting the lessons I’ve learned through my time with cancer. I’ve made a list of the things that are important for inclusion each day. Most are simple, but they are the things most easily crowded out of life when I get busy. I’ve realized that my concerns about what life will be like in my personal “new normal” are very similar to what I’m feeling and hearing from friends as we get closer to life beyond COVID.

One of the silver linings of COVID is our growing awareness of the benefits of simpler days and simpler joys. I had the same epiphany on a personal level because cancer made me stop and rest. The building of a post-cancer life that is sustainable and meaningful has made me realize that our opportunity as a society is similar. If you are wondering how to structure your life through the next round of changes, I invite you to take some time to notice what you want to carry forward, where you find joy and what sustains you. We are so blessed to have the choice of how to make our days matter, to ourselves and to others. Let’s create the lives we want to live!

Jeralyn Brossfield, MD, is the founder and physician of XO Health and medical director of Brain Treatment Center both in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 573.2761 or and on Facebook @XOHealth.

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