During this pandemic, many of us have struggled with navigating a ‘new normal’ and having to handle grief and loss for even the simplest of things that we can no longer turn to or count on. As we approach the anniversary of when many of us experienced our lives changing as a result of COVID-19, it can be important to think about what our values might be, and how we can honor them amidst a backdrop of collective survival and trying to meet our basic needs in this changing world.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we have:
Belongingness and Love Needs
Higher-based needs related to achieving, feeling better, fulfilling our potential, etc. cannot occur without our base-level needs being met. It may be harder to care about ‘recognizing your potential’ (whatever this is anyways!!) when you are struggling to have access to clean water, or your access to food is limited, whether due to food bank provisions, grocery store scarcity, weather/blocked transit routes, etc.
I think this is why some of the judgmental and at times esoteric guidance of starting a side hustle and considering the pandemic a success if you have mastered it, or taking the $600 stimulus check and starting a business or investing in stocks don’t always land quite right. These may have positive intentions – leaving you richer experience-wise or in regard to finances than when you began – but they don’t make sense if you are struggling to survive. This can be in regard to money, but may also be in regard to connection and community, spirit, isolation, loneliness, stigma with mental health or being lost in a negative spiral, etc.
One thing I have observed is many of us (including me) talking about what we plan to do when the pandemic ends. To some degree, this can be extremely helpful! It is important to be able to dream, hold hope, remember things that are dear to us, and believe that we can have some of these again, with being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, for some folks, I also can see a sense of holding their breath and potentially getting stuck in all-or-nothing thinking, and believing that all of their needs will/can wait to get met until the end of the pandemic. What I have thought about and asked myself and at times clients are:
How can we honor our values even in the midst of the pandemic?
Back when we were in the office, I had been inspired by a colleague’s ‘value card’ deck and loved to do this activity in-person. Folks get to choose a variety of values that are true for them, and get to explore and dig deep with ways they may be living in alignment with their values, shifts they would like to take towards these, as well as deciding is this something that I truly value?
I love the idea of being able to think about values that we would like to get to incorporate into our lives during the pandemic, and also have a cautionary note. Living out of our alignment with our values can be an easy way to try to guilt, shame, or otherwise make ourselves feel badly. Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it may be important to remember on any given day or moment, the secret sneaky value of survival may come in and trump everything else. This does not mean that you are bad or not disciplined enough. It may mean that you are needing to do what you can to get through the rest of the day.
Some values can span various levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Health for example may be a value. Eating some type of food and putting it into your body is part of health. Movement may also be at that base level. To move, you need to feel safe and secure to do so – this could mean having a space at home or outside of the home to do so; feeling free from interruptions or being able to incorporate loved or little ones at home; and secure by potentially having a routine or something to help anticipate, or feel confident in being able to follow and listen to your body. Health may also be something that you can honor through rest – but you know and are your own best expert of yourself.
One value that is important for me is adventure. Before, like many other people, I would have put this under the category of ‘travel’, with a desire to explore new places, cultures, and ways of living. However, if I expand it, I can also make seeing things an adventure as part of my attitude. I can have adventures with cooking different things, or walking to a park or area of my neighborhood that I haven’t seen. And, this value, as great as it is, may gently be put to the back-burner if it has been a hard day and I am needing some safety & security through snuggling my pups or getting cozy with a blanket. Our values are allowed to be flexible and evolve with us.
Happiness Planner has a list of 200+ personal values, and you can take a look to see: what is true and resonates for me? (see: https://thehappinessplanner.com/pages/list-of-core-values)
In terms of working with these values and finding what speaks to you, you can:
1) Write it down.
Write down the values that are most important for you
2) Notice any patterns.
Put down a star or asterisk for ones that may be similar or fall into the same category.
3) Make your favorites stand out!
Go back through your list, and allow yourself to circle or doodle around the ones that are your favorites. Don’t be afraid to get messy!
4) Get down to what matters. See if you can whittle it down. How many total values are there? Can you get it down to your top 10 core values?
Ask yourself ways that, during the pandemic, these values could find their way into your life (note: it’s okay if not all of them can apply in a pandemic! You can get creative, or give yourself permission to honor those values in the future).
You can draw any images that come to mind with these values, write down ways that these values could come into play in your daily life, or think of special moments and ways that you could get to experience that value.
Just remember … at any time, you have permission to put that value down, and come back to survival as a value – coming back to breathing, to grounding, to doing what you need to do in order to get through the day… and that is okay, too. You are here, and have made it to this new day, and that deserves to be celebrated and honored in and of its own right.