The lessons I've learnt during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Amy Au·August 25, 2022
As most of the world has opened up and come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been taking the time to reflect on my life and what I can learn from this difficult time. Amidst all the chaos and fear, there have been some incredible lessons to be learnt about resilience, mindfulness, self-care, personal growth and the power of connection. Perhaps you might find these lessons useful in navigating any challenging times that lay ahead.
Coping with uncertainty
No one predicted COVID-19 in the year of 2020 and how it turned the world up-side-down. The pandemic demonstrated that life can change very quickly and unpredictably. While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Very little about our lives is constant or totally certain and we can't control everything that happens to us. There are healthy ways to cope with uncertainty, and that begins with adjusting your mindset:
Focus on controlling those things that are under your control - we often can't control events from happening, however we can control our reaction to such events and the stories we associate these events with.
Challenge your need for certainty - when fearing a change that may happen in the future, think of the worst case scenario and play it through to its conclusion. Most of the time even the worst case scenario is not the end of the world.
Learn to embrace uncertainty - try the following steps: Identify your uncertainty triggers, recognise when you feel the need for uncertainty, allow yourself to feel the uncertainty, let go, and shift your attention.
Focus on the present - instead of trying to predict what might happen, switch your attention to what’s happening right now. Practicing mindfulness helps you live in the present moment, not in your head.
Reduce your anxiety and stress levels - some ways include: exercise, meditation, self-care practices, yoga, plenty of sleep, and a healthy diet.
The practice of gratitude
Studies have shown that expressing gratitude during challenging times can help you recognise the goodness of life, which helps calm your fear and anxiety, allowing you to maintain a more positive outlook in uncertain situations. Some simple ways to practice gratitude are:
Write a thank-you note, text, or email; or tell someone you appreciate them - appreciating others will in turn fill you with gratitude.
Make gratitude a daily habit - start a gratitude journal. Through the journal you might even find out the things, people or places you regularly are thankful for.
Give thanks for everyday moments - we often take the small things in our lives for granted until we loose them. Learn to appreciate those small moments in life.
Reframe past negative experiences - think about the worst moments in your life. Then contrast those with where you are now. Consider not only how you endured, but also what you learned through the experience.
Grieving and Mourning
During the pandemic, we all experienced grief and loss. Many of us have lost someone we love, and I lost my grandmother and one of my closest friends. We all lost some form of freedom that we were used to our whole lives - freedom to travel, freedom to meet with loved ones, freedom to attend events whenever we wanted etc. Some tips on coping with grief and loss in a healthy way:
Allow yourself to grieve - take whatever time you need, rather than giving yourself a deadline for when you should be "over it".
Live one day at a time - set a regular daily routine and do something special for yourself every day, e.g. meditate, go for walks, take warm baths.
Seek help - talk to a friend or relative, join a support group or see a therapist.
Stay connected - spend time with supportive people.
Recount the positive memories - write a journal, share stories and rituals with others, write a letter to the person you have lost, collect photos or keepsakes.
Look after your health - exercise, eat healthily and make sure you have enough sleep.
Mark special occasions with a simple ceremony - light a candle, playing music or gathering with family.
Vulnerability and Empathy
All humans feel scared and vulnerable at times. It is healthy to share your vulnerability, as it is an act of courage and strength. Dr. Brené Brown has done incredible work on this subject - courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Through her research she discovered two powerful yet opposing takeaways that she shares both in her book and in her TED talk on shame and vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear, and the struggle for worthiness.
2. Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, and belonging.
I highly recommend reading her books, watching her TED talks, and/or listening to her podcasts if you have not done so.
Empathy is feeling someone else's pain or seeing through their eyes. Being empathetic helps us make connections with others and understand them better. Empathy is also a precursor to compassion - a commitment to doing something that relieves someone else's suffering. Empathy can open your heart, letting in more feelings, but also softening some of the tough experiences. As we build empathy for others, we understand them more and can connect with them differently, which boosts our resilience.
One last lesson I've learnt through the COVID-19 pandemic is how resilient we are as a human race. The pandemic has made us collectively stronger emotionally and mentally. The above is just a brief summary the lessons I've acquired. I strongly encourage you to investigate deeper if you find any e are of interest to you. There have been some fascinating studies done on each of the subjects.
What are some important life lessons you've learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic? Please share them in the comments below, I would love to hear about them!