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Finding Silver Linings in the Pandemic

Yes, even a global pandemic can have a silver lining. Not to diminish the terrible parts of COVID-19, of which there are plenty, but it’s also OK to look for the positives, in part because doing so helps us to continue to make our way through it.

What effects has the COVID-19 Pandemic had on our lives?

Even if you haven’t gotten sick or directly suffered a major loss, on some level you’ve likely experienced the collective trauma brought on by COVID-19.

Of course, there’s the really heavy stuff: more than 800 thousand deaths and over 8 million jobs lost in the US alone. Healthcare facilities and front line workers overwhelmed. A rise in mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

My daughters and I visited the exhibit "In America" in which each flag represents a COVID death back in 2020.

In addition, schools were closed for more than a year, and many are closing again now, forcing kids to be isolated from their peers and parents to juggle online learning with their own jobs and other obligations. Sadly, the impact of the pandemic has been particularly tough on groups that are already underprivileged and stretched too thin, including the poor, women, kids, and ethnic minorities.

Even the little stresses can add up, like decision fatigue from making safety decisions against a backdrop of changing variants of the virus and evolving public health guidance. It’s also been tough to navigate differences among people who have varied levels of risk tolerance or desire to follow recommended guidelines on vaccination and masking.

Yet through it all, there have been some bright spots—maybe even some habits and lessons we’ve developed that will outlive the pandemic and enrich our whole lives. From lessons in health and wellness to realigning our core values, here are a few silver linings that stand out for us at AdaRose.

Pandemic Health & Healthcare Lessons

Wearing masks on the Metro.

The pandemic has forced the average person to think about health much more than they usually do, including how their own actions impact it. In places like Japan, mask-wearing was the norm for people with a contagious condition well before the pandemic.

I had only one cold last year—far below my usual average. And I don’t believe I passed it on to anyone. While mask wearing has unfortunately been a politically divisive issue, I’d be up for continuing it in public when I get a cold or flu. How about you?

The pandemic has also changed the way healthcare services are delivered for the better. Most dramatically, the use of telemedicine is 38x higher than before the pandemic, according to the most recent telehealth report update by McKinsey & Company. Why take a day off of work and drive to your doctor when you can dial him or her in via video?

We’re also seeing a much greater use of other health technologies by consumers in the home environment than ever before. Growing use of remote patient monitoring in partnership with clinicians, wearables, and fitness equipment like the Peloton and the Mirror have all significantly increased. These changes represent trends that were catalyzed by the pandemic and which I hope will continue to grow well beyond it.

Pandemic Wellness Lessons

The pandemic has helped us to expand the ways we think about health and wellness in several ways, including increasing awareness of mental health needs. Celebrities including gymnast Simone Biles helped to remove the stigma of caring for your mental health when she stepped away from the team competition final during the 2020 Summer Olympics, citing stress and overwhelm.

One way to boost mental and physical wellbeing is through deliberate routines such as morning yoga, or a standard wind down routine before sleep.

During the pandemic my husband and I have significantly upped our breakfast game. Through experimentation with our diets including trying the Whole 30, we recognized how powerful it is to make breakfast a significant and balanced meal including eggs, vegetables, berries, and toast. (Toast is definitely not Whole 30 compliant—but we added it afterwards!) We often make breakfast for each other and sit and eat it together—so much better than downing a bowl of cereal alone and in a hurry.

Possibly to no one’s surprise, watching TV / streaming movies has been the most popular way people spend their "leisure" time during the pandemic. Tiger King, anyone? Other top activities include listening to music, reading, knitting, and gaming.

Additionally, 1 in 5 households have brought a pandemic pet into their lives. We already had cats before the pandemic, but I give ours significant credit for making it more bearable through their ridiculous level of cuteness and high entertainment value.

Nico and Blue Blue terrorizing a dollhouse

Finally, I may be a little behind on this, but I recently made one of the most common pandemic purchases: an air fryer. Actually, my brother and I bought matching air fryers for each other so we can swap recipes at a distance. I can’t say it’s been life changing yet, but I have made some excellent baked sweet potatoes. Stay tuned!

Pandemic Life Lessons

One of the lessons the pandemic has taught me is greater patience and perspective. Big plans get cancelled (often). Supply chain disruptions slow you down, and you have to figure out Plan B… or Plan H. But most of the things you may have thought were essential aren’t actually that important in the big picture.

Source: The New Yorker, August 27, 2021

And through the constant reminder of the challenges others are facing, there is the perspective that things could be even worse. This New Yorker cartoon from August 27, 2021 captures that sentiment well. The caption says “Aw, look at all these photos of us wearing masks, back when we were all able to live aboveground.”

In addition, the pandemic has brought about a shift in the work world known as the Great Resignation. You might think people are scrambling to take or hold onto any job they can get given the uncertainty around us.

Instead, many people are leaving their jobs. In fact, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November 2021 alone–3% of total workers. Many people are seeking a job that holds greater purpose and meaning for them.

Having spent much of my career self-employed, that makes complete sense to me. It’s compelling to have control over how you spend your time, and which projects you take on. It’s great fun to be able to make your own path. Regardless of what you do and where you do it, intentionally crafting your life to hold meaning and purpose is the best investment you can make.

My daughter Ada and I drew a heart in the unexpected but gorgeous snow on Monday.

Finally, what has become most obviously valuable to me is time and relationships. My two little girls have grown several inches between them since the pandemic started. I see now how quickly childhood will be over. And I understand that my elders will not always be around either. So my goodness, it’s worth it to clear up any misunderstandings, and run out and enjoy every fleeting moment of fun and joy while you can!

What silver linings have you discovered during the pandemic that you plan to hold onto or continue throughout 2022 and beyond?

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