As we venture out into the world once again, the last thing most of us want to do is think about all the fear, worry and general awfulness of the coronavirus pandemic. And yet, if we do think about our lives during these unprecedented times, we’ll certainly find that much of what happened over the last 15 months wasn’t so bad. In fact, some of it was actually pretty great. What we learned over our forced time together and away from much of the world provides a good framework for the rest of our lives.
Instead of trying to forget the bad we’ve been through together, let’s remember all the good things we experience and make sure they become part of our lives moving forward.
Good hygiene became part of our lives
Remember when parents spent half their lives trying to teach kids how to be hygienic? There’s nothing like a pandemic to kick those efforts into overdrive. How many times did they have to threaten kids before getting them to wash their hands pre-pandemic? Chances are they get the point now. How about covering their face when sneezing or coughing? They might have forgotten in past years, but there’s nothing like watching people run for cover at the sight of a sneezing child to shame them into covering their face with their elbows. Can’t stop your kids from picking their nose or putting their thumb in their mouth? Slap a mask on them and see both those bad habits magically disappear.
Mental health makeover
For many, mental health is not a staple of everyday life. But during the pandemic, how could it not be. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) the isolation and uncertainty led to troubling increases in depression, substance abuse and other stress-related symptoms – including serious thoughts of suicide. Parents and their children were forced to face these issues without putting them aside in favor of the usual distractions. Many also learned firsthand that helping others is a coping strategy that reduces their own mental health impact and that addressing people’s basic needs simultaneously helps alleviate their psychiatric symptoms. Moving forward, parents should be as attuned to their children’s mental health as they were forced to be during the pandemic.
Crash course in working and schooling from home
Before COVID-19, many working parents thought working from home was an impossibility. The noise, distractions and responsibilities of home life were too much. The same goes for schooling from home. Not anymore. Sure, getting thrown into work from home and having our kids try and learn remotely alongside us, was filled with challenges, failures and frustrations, but most learned to balance them admirably. Now parents know their options moving forward. A Gallup poll taken earlier this year showed that views on working from home are evolving with close to a quarter saying they wanted to continue working from home even after the pandemic.
Appreciation for little and big things
The pace of our lives often means we don’t appreciate all the things we have until we are forced to slow down or lose something. The pandemic opened our eyes to the world around us and gave us an appreciation for what was taken from us during it. Stepping out into the backyard, going to the park or hanging out on the street took on a new importance when they were the only options available. Seeing loved ones, friends and acquaintances in person was an overlooked part of our lives before COVID-19, now our hearts yearn for the day we can see those same individuals and someday give them a big hug.
The pandemic took so much from our lives that it will never be an episode that we want to repeat. Even so, if we think about our lives before COVID-19, there are many things we didn’t do well, or not good enough. Using what we learned from the last year and several months to make our lives better is the best way to move forward.