Spring! Sunshine, birds chirping, waking up from one of the longest, coldest, darkest winters in recent history. It feels good to be waking up. The sun and the birds and the buds on the trees give us hope. It seems that with the vaccine rollout we are getting closer to some semblance of normal. Thank goodness for some relief from the constant worry (oh it’s still there but we’ve taken the edge off), the isolation (still in masks but we are finding ways to gather), the devastating news of elevated numbers of cases and deaths daily (we are not out of the woods, but things are improving). Always welcome Spring is even more celebrated this year.
We’ve spent months in a hard and dark place. It’s as if we are the groundhog tentatively peeking out of his hole, is it safe to emerge? What awaits us? Sara and I have talked to educators all over the country and they all felt the same things, exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, fear like they couldn’t be the teachers they had always been. After 25 years of teaching it was year one all over again. People are grieving, the death of loved ones definitely; but also loss of routines, connection, sports, time outside of the house, etc… It is good to be emerging from that tunnel. I hope you all are feeling relief and enjoying some sun on your face.
What we’ve learned through scientific research in positive psychology is that humans use the good times to build resources for the hard times. Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory teaches us that during the long dark winter (or whatever hard circumstances we encounter), we tend to withdraw and begin to close in on ourselves, our possibilities become less, our opportunities seem non-existent. We literally do not have the ability to see that things could be different. When a little positive emotion comes along (maybe some sun on your face or a morning birdsong) we begin to open up and shake off the veil that has held us in the dark maze for so long. Suddenly the light is on, suddenly we can see that things can be different, this will not last forever, everything is possible. What a wonderful thing. We are resilient. We are built to find our way out of the maze.
The second part of Fredrickson’s theory is that those broadened times are the times we build resources for so that when we face the hard times again we will get through it with grace. Again, resilience. That used to mean gathering food and firewood for the winter and creating villages where mutual support and collaboration uplift everyone. Today things are different, but the building of resources is just as important. Emerging from so much isolation, our relationships need attention. Introverts may have gotten blissfully used to having excuses to stay home at every opportunity. Extroverts may be dying to get out and see as many people as possible. Our interactions may feel rusty. The relationships within our house may feel a bit suffocating or strained from so much together time for so long. In another scenario, perhaps they are closer than ever and you want to find a way to keep that as your teens reintegrate into school and social life. Perhaps it’s time for a relationship reset. Maybe it's time to let go of old patterns and create something new.
As we think about all of the changes that will take place in the next year, what do we want to hold onto? What do we want to let go of? How do we want this new normal to look? We have a choice. We can create the world we want to live in. Beyond relationships, this is a time to build your own resources by learning how to be more resilient, more able to handle the emotion that comes your way, more equipped to create the positive emotion that can begin the broadening in your life. It is so nice to feel the sun on our faces. How can we bottle it?