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Life at Home Insights

The new normal is here. But how do we navigate it?

In our most recent conversations with 20 households across five countries, the IKEA Life at Home team has uncovered the new stresses that life beyond coronavirus lockdown have created for the many. Liberated from their homes, people have been required to make new choices, face new challenges and accept – or create – new standards for themselves. And as their lives move beyond their homes’ four walls, they’re reporting a shift in their relationships with what have been their safe spaces and sanctuaries. We share all here – and provide reflection prompts to help with navigating this next phase.

From clarity to complexity

With lockdowns easing, some are relishing regaining a semblance of normality. But for others, this new reality presents some struggles. There’s a new ‘always-on’ feeling – this time not about having to be all things to all people within boundary-challenged, multi-purpose homes, but because of new decisions, worries and blockers to constantly overcome. These make the outside world feel tiring, stressful and, at times, uncomfortable. “Things are becoming so layered and stacked upon one another,” says Ashley in the USA. “It’s almost like a 24-cycle of worry.”

Questions, questions

‘To hand wash or to sanitise? When, after doing what and for how long?’. ‘To home school or send my kids back? What will the risks be, and will their education be affected?’. ‘Two metres apart or one? And how do the health authorities know this will protect me?’. These are just some of the multitude of questions people have to ask themselves every day. The ‘autopilot’ thinking and decision making of old is gone. Now our level of alertness is sharpened, and with it, the requirement that we think and react constantly.

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The expanding grey area

In lockdown we knew where stood. Now, we often don’t. With more autonomy comes more responsibility – yet in some countries there aren’t clear rules. This leads to people interpreting them in different ways – and fearing judgement of their actions when they do. For example, in the USA, Nicole has worried she may unwittingly pass the virus on to others, while in Italy, Illenia has observed while wearing the required mask and gloves when she’s out, that there are some who don’t. Although this doesn’t worry her, it’s made her recognise that different people see the new standards in different ways. Against this backdrop Margareta, also from Italy, is made painfully aware of her needs: “I just want to go back to normality. This means freedom to do what you want. Maybe you decide to stay at home – but it’s your decision. I want to be able to meet people without the fear of being fined. That’s it.”

 

On reflection…

From what our 20 households have told us, this time in the aftermath of infection peaks and lockdowns needs a degree of personal reflection. So, we’ve developed some prompts that we hope will help with the practise of quietly taking some time and space to look at our lives.

Go gently

As you emerge into and move through the world, remind yourself to breathe, look around and hold on to what was important during lockdown. Re-emergence should be slow and considered – not rushed. Think of deep-sea divers bubbling up to the surface – like them, you don’t want to get the bends.

Tap into balance 

Think of your life as a pizza (stay with us…!) and observe the size of its ‘slices’ to keep your balance in check. These slices can represent family, friendships, exercise, emotional wellbeing, hobbies and so on – the things that are important to you. Sometimes these portions are equal, sometimes one or more has to take more space than the others for a while. When this happens, examine how it affects the size of the others. If one becomes so small it’s disappearing, it’s time to re-slice your pie!

Assess expectations

Stress and disappointment come with the expectation that everything will be as it was before. By now we all know that it won’t. So, commit to the practice of expecting that the everyday situations you’re now able to be in won’t look or feel like they did pre-coronavirus. Not only will this limit that stress and disappointment, it will also create lovely surprises when things do feel close to the way they once were.  

Keep to your side of the street

Look at your own actions and try not to become overly concerned about others judging you – or with judging what others are doing. When rules and regulations aren’t clear, we all have to make our own calls, and need to respect what feels right for each of us. It helps to mute the voices that don’t help you find clarity – including social media accounts – and to listen in to the ones that do. This, of course, is mostly about listening in to yourself.

Root with routine

As we talked about in our first of these insights post, routine is key to creating rhythm, to grounding us and to ensuring we give ourselves time and space to pause. Now is the time to think about the routines that you set during lockdown, what you want to take forward into the new world – and how. Remember the pointers we gave for how to create routines that meet the needs you have: observing your day, discovering what you’re missing and setting realistic goals.

Make slow decisions 

While the epic scale of micro decision-making that our households have talked about requires being reactive, don’t let this become how you make the bigger decisions. If, for example, you’re deciding whether to send kids back to school, assess the impact not only on the child and yourself, but on the whole family. If it involves public transport, regulations that might upset the child, or putting vulnerable family members at risk, the downsides may well outweigh the positives. It’s about taking a big-picture view.

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Re-evaluate home 

Our households talked this week about now looking at their homes with new eyes. As this intense time within those spaces has come to an end, they’re reflecting on what they would need if this were to happen again. Now is a time to think objectively about how your home has both served and worked against you. Considering of course finances and energy, what do you need your space to do going forward? To accommodate the things you want to do, the treasured belongings you want to store and the access to nature most say they need?

Tune in to nature

We are part of nature and it is part of us. That’s because it tells us much about ourselves – reminding us that the world and our lives are about cycles. Just as nature heals, regenerates and adapts, so too will we and the world we live in, in response to this exceptional time. Tuning in to nature can be as simple as noticing the small joys in the world around us – of which there are, of course, so many.