Good morning Beautiful people!
What do you value about the winter season? The beautiful falling snow, the crisp temperatures, the fact that every single snowflake is unique, the return of the eggnog latte? haha. I appreciate winter for its invitation to snuggle up in a blanket on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a favorite book – without feeling one iota of guilt about it 🙂
Yet this winter is different, isn’t it? On top of the normal disquiet we may feel this time of year about the next snowstorm, how deep the snow will fall, and how cold it will get, there’s an additional apprehension about the pandemic. How much worse will it get? how much more of our community will be shut-down and how will that impact me? Will I or someone I care about contract the coronavirus?
I don’t know about you, but my values for safety, health, and predictability feel vulnerable. And when values are threatened, so is our peace of mind.
Values are developed throughout life as we develop and mature, through experiences and learning. As children, we grow up adhering to our caregivers’ values and then, as youth, go through a period of questioning, clarifying, experimenting, and eventually settling in to the values that fit for us as independent adults. These values are the things, beliefs, and experiences that we hold dear to us. Our values inform our decisions. They make us who we are and inform what we do.
When we act in accordance to our values – what is important to us – we feel more settled, confident, and on the right track. When we act in opposition to our values, we can end up feeling unsettled, uncomfortable, and off track. This is when we might start feeling conflicted, anxious, depressed, angry, bitter, or confused. We might start to lose that sense of who we are and our purpose in life.
Values can and do change throughout our life as we continue to learn new things and face new circumstances. The coronavirus pandemic, in my opinion, has given us an opportunity to reflect on our values. Values such as health, safety, family, and freedom that I took for granted before March 2020, have now reappeared at the top of my values list and inform my decisions more than ever. Values such as wealth, popularity, independence, and achievement have become less important to me through the experiences of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting quarantine, self isolation, and social distancing. When I make decisions that keep my safety, health, family, and freedom as priority, I feel more confident and content because I am making decisions in line with what’s important to me.
By the way, values are not right or wrong. My values are right for me, and your values are right for you, even when they are starkly different. The important thing is that each of us is aware of our values, how they inform our decisions, and that we choose to live in accordance with the values that are right for each of us, as much as possible. And, of course, that we respect each other’s right to have different values 🙂
Sometimes its easy to identify the values that we hold dear. Sometimes its more difficult when we don’t give much conscious thought to our values or we’ve held the value(s) for a long time. Exploring our values and assessing how these values fit/don’t fit for us every once in a while is helpful in promoting good decision-making and mental health. Perhaps you have found, like I, that the experience of the pandemic has tested your values? Have you found yourself making decisions that don’t make much sense to you? Have you been feeling nervous, sad, uncomfortable but not really sure why? It might help to take a look at your values. Therapist Aid has a list of values (not exhaustive) that I find helpful when working with people to identify, explore, and assess fit with the values they hold. It’s available at www.therapistaid.com. The Therapist Aid website also has some values discussion cards that can serve as a prompt for dicussion reflection about your values and how they impact your relationships, choices, and life goals.
Especially for People we work with: The worksheets on Values available at www.therapistaid.com may be very helpful in guiding people to develop awareness of their values and improve understanding about how their thoughts, feelings, and actions reflect those values that are important to them (or not!!). The Values Discussion Cards, especially, would be helpful in guiding conversations that help people find clarity, commonality, and community with others. It’s a great tool for building self-esteem, rapport, and good decision-making.