Despite the drawbacks and disappointment that have accompanied these unprecedented times, we can start to see the bright side of COVID and its unexpected effects.
I will be the first to admit that a worldwide pandemic has not exactly been the highlight of my year– in fact, it has been quite the opposite. From college graduations and high school reunions being cancelled to family trips being postponed, there have definitely been some disappointing milestones I have missed due to necessary safety restrictions. Our everyday actions have had to drastically change over the course of only a few months. While I can relate to the disappointment and drawbacks that have accompanied these unprecedented times, I have also started to recognize a bright side to COVID-19 and its unexpected effects: we have established habits and changes that I believe need to stick around as the world slowly starts opening back up. I’ll share just a few.
- Prioritizing Relationships
As physical meet-ups, meetings, and clubs have been cancelled, general feelings of isolation have caused us to reach out more to friends and family than we have in the past. Whether it be through video-messages, apps, voice call or text, people are connecting more with those who mean most to them. Creativity has thrived in the constraint of social distancing and stay-at home orders. Our ability to connect with those near and far has never been easier, though it might be a little different. As social gatherings become safer and schedules become busier, let’s not forget to continue to reach out to loved family and friends. Creating connections with those we love, be it digitally or in person, provides meaning and a sense of belonging that are essential for joyful living. Keep calling, texting, and reaching out to those you care about.
- Physical Activity
You may have noticed an abundance of bodies walking around your neighborhoods, complexes, and nature trails. When staying in has become the protocol, exercise has turned into the highlight (and perhaps the only access to sunlight) of our day. Daily exercise has both physical and psychological benefits for each of us. Not only can exercise reduce your risk of heart attack and high blood pressure, help control your weight, and strengthen bones and muscles, it also has been proven to be almost as effective as psychotherapy and medications in treating depression! With so many benefits, daily exercise is one of the most important habits that we can maintain as schedules begin to shift back and access to the outdoors doesn’t feel like our biggest priority.
- Spreading Kindness
Overwhelming uncertainty, job loss, illness, and isolation have become a catalyst for kinder communications between friends and strangers alike. I have been touched by friends who have reached out to me to check-in on my family, and strangers you have offered me the last carton of milk at the store. I have noticed more compassion in others’ language and more empathy in my responses. At a time when we know everyone is struggling, it seems easier to react with care and perspective; however, this habit need not fade when the rush of life has swept us off our feet again. As we interact with others, let’s continue to show concern, patience, love, and understanding for those around us. There are many personal pandemics that will continue to plague the lives of others, and at times, ourselves. Let us show kindness and compassion for everyone around us– surely we will need some in our time of trial.
Perhaps more than ever, we have been placed in situations that require great adaptation from what is considered “the norm”. Online schooling and work, socially distanced grocery shopping, take-out only food service, job loss, and health concerns are just a few examples of the adjustments that millions have been making across the country. Speaking personally, not all of these changes have been easy, but I have been able to practice greater resilience, problem solving, and adaptability to challenges out of my control– and I know that I am not the only one. Employees have adapted to video-conference calls and bed-side meetings while parents have taken on the full-time role of school teacher. Those facing unemployment have found joy in the everyday and sought unique opportunities for income and experience.
The unlikely circumstances that we find ourselves in now many never surface the same way in the future, but the need to be adaptable and creative will always be apparent. Take time to reflect on the ways that you have adapted to these unprecedented times and record what you have learned. In the future, these experiences and abilities will be necessary as challenges and changes cross our paths. Don’t forget your capacity to use opposition for growth; you have done it now, and you certainly can do it again!
Seeing the Bright Side
Despite the downsides COVID-19 has brought into our lives, there are many helpful habits that have become the bright side of all the change. As we continue to prioritize our relationships by using the technologies and avenues of communication 2020 has to offer, we will feel greater connection with loved ones and friends no matter our distance from them. Our commitment to engage in physical activity will bring about both physical and mental health benefits. Spreading kindness to others and remembering compassion will be key as we press forward in our interactions with others. And last, continuing to improve our adaptability will assist us as we encounter the challenges and oppositions of life. As the world continues to change, we can resolve to remember the bright side of this time to brave the storms of the future.
Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
Lydia Judd is a senior at Brigham Young University studying psychology. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband where she works as an RBT at Bluesprig Pediatrics.