COVID's Upside: An Essential Worker's View

COVID's upside: An essential worker's view

It is easy to overlook silver linings during a scary time in history.

By now, you know about the coronavirus, and that what began in China has spread to about 200 countries. 

The virus is spreading quickly. The havoc it is wreaking at times does not feel real.

Sometimes it feels like day to day life is an ongoing movie scene.  As if at any moment, Rachel Nichols will  assure you that you are reallywatching the movie Pandemic. Or  maybe Outbreak, with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman. 

If that were the case, the pandemic would be pretend, and it be over when the movie ends.   And you could go back to living happily ever after. Or at least living in the fantasy of that fairy tale. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic is true life. No 'lights, camera action!' about it. 

Right here. Right now. Face masks, 6 feet of personal space, relentless hand washing, and all. 

Facing mortality is scary and unpleasant. That whole impermanence thing is tough to digest. 

Contemplating death is generally not welcomed, nor is being sequestered and isolated. But, in fact, the United States and other countries have wisely mandated quarantining for safety's sake. 

Here is where your mind can be a friend or foe. Or both.

Do you know any Suzie Cheerleader types, with their rainbows and unicorns, who are Silver Lining spokespeople?  How annoying is that? Especially when their Polyanna positivity squelches your venting session or good cry.

Yet, there are psychologically flexible ways to acknowledge more of the good and less of the bad. To pay more than lip service to benefits and harp less on the crises of a Pandemic.  

Something can be terrifying and offer benefits. “Good” and “bad” can co-exist, espeically when it comes to resolving conflicts. 

The virus, like most things in life, does not have to be one or the other.  

Yes, an international, potentially deadly virus outbreak is scary. Very scary. Yet, the ways the virus has impacted you individually and collectively doesn’t have to be all about the fear. There may even be something redemptive.

Here is the upside, brought to you by my telehealth patients. Hopefully you can relate and have other ideas to add. 

(Caveat: A certain amount of privilege is required in order for the ideas to be accessible. Not everyone, due to no fault of their own, has such access.)

Taking it down a notch ... or two ... or a few.

The baseline of everyday life is rush, rush, rush. Hurry up! Multitask. More, more, more! Get 'A to Z' done pronto!

When housebound, you have fewer options and pressures.  You are forced to slow down.  There aren’t too many places to go, required tasks to complete, or people to see during a mass quarantine.

You may have unprecedented opportunities to take time to sit and enjoy your morning coffee or tea. To enjoy the warmth of the mug in your hands. The aroma of the coffee as it makes its way to your nose.

Tune into what you want to eat for breakfast. Leisurely enjoy time with your kids. Go out for a walk in nature. No need to run. No need to rush. You have the time.

Simply savor. And be. 

Enjoying your own company.

I personally enjoy solitude. It helps me to replenish, and always has. You may not like alone time though. Maybe it is boring to you. Or feels unpleasant to be alone with your own thoughts.

Finding ways to entertain yourself, or even to learn to tolerate (and enjoy)  the presence of your own individual company has enormous personal benefits. And it will likely enrich your relationships once the quarantine is over.

Connecting to others

Getting caught up in your work, family life, and  personal drama is often the way each day, week, month, and year unfold.  You could lose sight of how much you care about family and friends. And even about  fellow humans you do not know but with whom you are connected by virtue of being human. The shared humanity of existence is so much more palpable  now than ever.

We are all in this together, and we need to keep each other safe. We are responsible for keeping ourselves as healthy as possible, which in turn means we are helping other human beings to be as healthy as possible.

In spite of social distancing guidelines, we can remain more connected than ever – be it spiritually, via online technology, or by checking on neighbors.  This in turn reminds us not to take each other for granted.

Recalibrating your value system

Many years ago I heard a saying that stuck with me. It goes something like this, “The problem with the rat race is even if you win, you are still a rat.”

The quote is a reminder that money, power, prestige, and material things are really not what matter in the end. And the potentially deadly virus reminds us all of the fact there will be an end for each of us. That whole mortality thing is not something we tend to face until it is right in front of us.  

Decluttering your closets and personal infrastructure.

Now there is time to organize your closet, junk drawers, and/or basement. Put clothes that are out of style or don’t fit quite right into a bag and leave it at the Salvation Army. Or call Big Brother Big Sister or a similar agency to come by and pick up donations. It is a win win.

There is also time now to take an inner inventory. What can you emotionally ‘get rid of’ that no longer serves you? Maybe it is resentment toward your aunt, who is now in poor health. Or envy toward your neighbor who is a stay at home mom. You now have the time to slow down and evaluate what matters in your life and how you choose to prioritize and show up.

Connecting to something bigger

Sometimes it takes major adversity to give you a kick in the ass to recognize that life is not a dress rehearsal. This, right here, right now, is the real thing. You think you have a tomorrow. And hopefully you do. And the corona virus reminds you and me that none of us has a longetivity contract.

Meaning comes in the form of finding your passion and contributing to the whole to make it a better place, for whatever time you have the privilege to be here.  

The collective you and I are all searching for similar things – meaning, love, connection. We are more similar than different.  

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COVID-19 can help you attune to those virtues. And to the shared humanity that binds you and me.