The past 12 months have undoubtedly been some of the most difficult that many of us have ever experienced. If you’re a working parent, it might have felt like you were thrown off the deep end without a life jacket - suddenly forced to serve as babysitters, teachers, 24/7 housekeepers, and therapists for your partner or roommates, all the while having to keep up with your work responsibilities (not to mention dealing with the grief associated with the loss of seeing your regular friends to unwind). If you live alone, the profound senses of boredom and loneliness that likely quickly creeped up last year and are still present are difficult to shake. On top of all that, our global society is coping with the grief of losing grandparents, parents, partners, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends to COVID-19. No one will say this has been easy, but there is something positive we can pull from this pandemic experience.
We are increasing our resilience, right this very moment
It’s been proven that a huge percentage of us who go through traumatic experiences such as war violence or a pandemic actually come out on the other side with improved abilities to cope with life’s challenges when they arise in the future. In other words, incredibly stressful crisis situations push us into survival mode and spit us out at the end stronger. We emerge from the ashes wiser, more resilient, and with improved insight into what (and who) we want to nurture in our lives.
We realize that we are so much stronger than we thought
As you look back on the past year, take a moment to appreciate what you’ve accomplished (“staying alive” counts!). Give yourself credit for coping with the time’s challenges and non-negotiable demands. We might feel like if we can get through this, we can get through just about anything life decides to throw at us. For most of us, this pandemic has been a defining historical moment in our lifespan - and we should be incredibly proud of ourselves for continuing to make it through and show up every day.
Our renewed priorities may have (already) shifted for the better
The pandemic initially placed a very unwelcome magnifying glass on all the cracks in our lives - it put our relationships, our jobs, and our mental and emotional wellness in a pressure cooker. It showed us very quickly what wasn’t meeting our needs. This was made even more obvious by the sudden loss of our normal coping mechanisms that helped us counterbalance our stress before such as meeting our colleagues for drinks or a gym class after work, connecting with our parents once a week for dinner at their house, weekend getaways with our friends or partners, or simply just free time (parents will likely scoff at this concept).
Now, however, we might have more precise insight into what it is we actually want to prioritize our time for. We may have learned over the last year (sans all the distractions and commitments we normally have) what you’d like to channel more energy and effort into - what’s really important to you. You may not have had this insight pre-pandemic. Perhaps you’ve realized which of your relationships are no longer serving you, and which ones you’d like to deepen. You might be inspired to switch careers to something you’re more passionate about. You might have discovered (or rediscovered!) a hobby you love and want to continue long after COVID fades into the background. You might want to prioritize getting more sleep, keep around some of the new traditions you developed during COVID holidays, or continue cooking more often at home. Or, you may just have a renewed ability to set necessary, firm boundaries in your life for things (and people) that drain your energy.
We’ve been reminded what not to take for granted
How many of you have thought, “Wow, I will never complain about getting on an airplane again when this is over,” or, “I will never take hugs with my parent/grandparent for granted again.” We certainly have! If nothing else, COVID has increased our gratitude for our lives. We are more grateful for our health, for our family, for our jobs, for our positions of privilege. Where we used to complain about being shoved around at crowded concerts, we now realize what a gift it was to be able to be there, in an endless sea of people all “sharing the air,” not worried about giving each other an illness with deadly consequences. Take this air of appreciation with you into the rest of today, tomorrow, and years ahead. One of the single best ways to help a poor mood is to remind yourself of all the wonderful things in your life that you’re lucky to have.
We remember that we’re not alone
This pandemic has reminded us of our sense of universality - that we are all in this together, living through a challenging yet shared experience. There is comfort in knowing that we’re all alone, together. We have shared senses of loneliness, boredom, of exhaustion. Humans are intimately connected with each other and this won’t go away when COVID does.
We’re not meant to live in social or physical isolation. We rely on each other to achieve goals and feel happy and satisfied, by nature. It makes sense, then, that we might not feel like our best selves right now. When we look through what we’ve coped with as a society - world wars, natural disasters, genocide, mass disease and so on - we’ve somehow survived as a species. Every generation living through a shared traumatic experience likely is who they are because of it - something about them developed for the better. Remember that while things seem tough now, pandemic life will eventually fade into the background. We will get back to what we love to do and who we want to be around.