Thriving in the Time of COVID-19

Without down playing ANY of the negatives of this virus and its impact on communities, I want to take a minute to look at the good. The negative is so easy to see and it’s very necessary to manage. 

But reality is never one sided.

I’m not about to go full on Pollyanna here, but the truth is there’s good that can come from the restrictions of our current situation. Deprivation can lead to innovation and bring a freshness, a newness, to how we look at the world around us. Yes, there is loss and disruption, and we don’t like that. But there’s also opportunity to come out of this stronger and better, particularly if we embrace the challenges together.

Acknowledge the Ugliness

A strong foundation is built on truth and the truth here is this sucks. Everyone is losing something in this and it is reasonable to find yourself tumbling through the stages of grief. Over and over again. Like kale in a blender.

Just the other day I was crying in the shower.

I made it through all of the prep. I got the family settled. Got client projects rolling. And then took some time to collapse. The stress of it all just got to me. 

There’s a good chance something else will spark it again before this is all done. We can only handle so much at a time before we need an outlet. For me, that’s often crying, and that’s okay. This is definitely a situation worth a few tears.

But it’s also not the ONLY way to handle it. 

Acknowledge the bad. Say it out loud. Doing so can release its grip on your brain and free you up to embrace equally truthful, alternative perspectives. But be prepared, the ugly parts of this have only begun. Sadly, it’s a part of our new reality, just not the only part.

Discuss Worst Case Scenarios

Another way to manage the negative aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is to talk through the potential consequences: 

  • Who’s going to take care of the children?
  • What if you lose your job? Or too many clients?
  • How would you pay for a hospital stay?

By planning ahead for the situations that are plaguing you, you can move beyond fear to a place of action. No one likes these kinds of possibilities, but if they’re on your mind it would be unhealthy and unproductive to just shove them aside. Take away their power by finding real solutions. 

Talk to People

We’ve been asked to maintain social distance. However, during Post Status’ mental health event — Taking Care of Yourself in Uncertain Times — a participant mentioned calling it physical distancing instead.

Just because there’s space between us, doesn’t mean we need to be socially isolated.

Being physically apart is definitely not the same as being socially apart, and is a much better word choice for our mental health. We are not, in fact, unable to socialize. There are free tools many of us use daily that can stretch across all the miles and keep us closer than ever. With them, people have been more visibly present in my life in the last few days than in the last few years.

We have the potential to build better habits for staying in touch regardless of the miles and time zones between us.

Whether you want to quietly co-work together, chat at the end of the work day or after the kids are tucked in bed, watch a movie, or play a game, technology has a solution for that. A little googling. A little creativity. And — poof — a good time can be had by all!

Man screaming into telephone
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

And while we’re here, talking to people doesn’t only refer to our friends. Medical and psychological professionals are also making themselves available through online resources. The Small Business Administration has resources available on its site. WP&UP is available for mental and emotional support, as well as much more.

Interaction, information, and alternative forms of communication are out there. Use them to make the best of this chaotic time.

Express Thankfulness

Being thankful has nothing to do with the circumstances around you. Thankfulness is 100% a choice. It’s choosing to look at what you have with gratitude. Expressed out loud, it has the power to positively change your attitude, and with it your entire perspective.

I mean, have you THOUGHT of what this would be like without the internet? Food delivery? Amazon Prime? Audio books from the library? Video streaming? Texting? Online gaming? The ability to work from home?

In the Spanish Flu pandemic they didn’t even KNOW that hand washing or quarantines would help.

Sure, it’s at best inconvenient and sometimes downright heartbreaking. But it’s not only those things, and that’s worth acknowledging.

Praise Others

Who doesn’t need a boost right now? Here’s your opportunity to feel happier while honestly acknowledging others. 

If you see something good, say something good.

Particularly if you’re currently home with your significant other and/or kids. Take it from a 20 year stay-at-home parent and homeschooling veteran, it is SO easy to fall into a trap of only mentioning the negative things. Combat this by being intentional about mentioning the good, even if it’s “just” when they did what they were supposed to do.

Their faces light up, your heart is warmed, AND they’re more likely to do something positive in the future. Everyone wins here.

Same goes for coworkers, support staff, and the people working the vital jobs that need to stay open. Most likely, they’re also tired and scared. Their lives are in chaos, too, and they’re coping as best they can, often while working longer hours than normal with fewer resources. 

Now is the time to practice verbal appreciation, patience, compassion, and grace. You want them; you need them. They want them; they need them. Here’s our chance to simply be nicer to those around us.

Three signs on metal fence that read Don't Give Up, Your Are Not Alone, and You Matter.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Expect Less

I didn’t say, “Like less.” No one likes less. It’s why we have Mega Burgers and Bladder Buster drinks. But we can adjust our expectations to meet the current normal, particularly at the store. Right now that means most of the things we’re used to buying range from “difficult to find” to down right “unavailable”. And, again, that sucks.

However, it does not mean that all hope is lost. 

If we plan for nothing to be as we expected, whether it’s getting groceries or elsewhere, we remove that blocker from our life. We enter situations with a more open perspective and can use the current circumstances to expand our horizon, and all from a relaxed perspective.

As an example, I bought bok choy. It was literally one of the few fresh green vegetables in the store. I’ve never cooked with bok choy, I may have bought it once before…, but other people have obviously managed to cook with it, so why not give it a try. I like the kind of things bok choy goes with, maybe I’ll find a new food to add to our diet. Maybe I won’t. That’s okay, too. Regardless, what a perfect chance to give it a try.

The point is, we can have a relaxed set of expectations and find more peace in a difficult situation. And who knows, maybe you’ll find some new things to add to your life along the way.

Find a New Hobby

Crafting supplies and a camera arranged on a table top.
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

When has there been a better time to try that thing you have been putting off? Paint a room that really needs it. Update your home office to make it feel fresh and new. Pull up some Bob Ross videos and find your inner “happy little tree.” Take up knitting. Or yoga. Work out a new exercise routine. — Yeah, you see what I did there. — Get a headstart on the yard work. Explore local hiking trails and parks. Invite a friend along, while keeping a reasonable distance of course.

Whatever it is that piques your interest, give it a go.

Channeling your time toward something new can give you a sense of accomplishment and leave your world a little better than it started. Need supplies, but can’t get out? Look into having the materials delivered to you. 

Further Your Education

There is only so much YouTube, Twitch, and Netflix you can consume. Here is a prime opportunity to use your forced downtime to further your knowledge base.

Whether it’s finishing a degree, learning a new tool that improves your work flow, or increasing your industry knowledge and making yourself a more valuable employee, once again the internet has put the opportunity to learn right at your fingertips. 

The possibilities are endless and just a google search away.

Plan a Future Reward

Last, but certainly not least, look ahead. You’re working hard to manage the current awfulness, and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, don’t let that keep you from looking ahead to when this is all over.

Pink flamingo pool floaty on blue green water
Photo by Vicko Mozara on Unsplash

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something enjoyable waiting once COVID-19 is a thing of the past? 

If you can, put aside some of the money that you’re not spending being out. Make it available for when you can go do the things you’re missing. Not only do you get the benefit of having something to look forward to, you’re also building up a potential emergency nest egg. No, it’s not fun to spend vacation money on doctor’s bills or home repairs. But it sure is nice to have it if you need it. 

And that future reward doesn’t have to be a trip or vacation.

Now’s an ideal time to learn better money management skills. Maybe change your diet to improve your health. Or develop a new work/life routine. Get more sleep. Move more throughout your day. Even build better relationships with your coworkers and neighbors. 

All of these things have positive future benefits that can make life after COVID-19 healthier, happier, and — gosh darn it — just plain more rewarding.

Regardless of What You Do, This Will End

Look at all the things you can’t do right now and remember — and, again, out loud is most stress relieving — this is only temporary. Life will continue. Eventually this will all be over.

None of us chose to be in this situation. 

However, we do get to choose how we’ll embrace it and, with some exceptions, who we’ll be on the other side of it. Those choices are the few things we can actually control in this mess. Don’t throw them away. Use them to find peace in the crazy, to spread joy that will fill your life too, and together create a stronger community.

One of these days we’ll look back and this will all have happened. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and there will be stories to tell, quite possibly over a beer at WordCamp.