This year has been unlike any other year I have ever experienced and I don’t think I am alone in this. The year 2020 started off great for many. From setting up yearly resolutions to anticipating graduations, weddings, or vacations, everyone had some idea of how things were going to turn out this year. Whether big, exciting plans, or not much planned at all, the COVID-19 pandemic hit everybody in the same way—everything we looked forward to and knew as normal changed drastically in a matter of only a few weeks. After six months of surviving this pandemic, I have come to some realizations about what this year has taught me.
- Anything Can Happen. Any Time.
It doesn’t matter how prepared I think I am. The fact is, life is going to be full of surprises that will catch us off guard every time, and there is no fighting the inevitable surprises of life. I like to think I have a strong sense of control over my life, but this pandemic has made me reconsider. The definition of a ‘normal, everyday life’ has changed so much over the past few months. What once was an everyday experience of seeing faces, attending sports events, concerts, and college, is now a different normal where everyone is masked up, six feet apart, and going to a concert or movie theater is no longer existent. It just comes to show that life has its ups and downs. Although there are many ways to prepare for certain challenges, some will hit when least expected.
- Acceptance Is the First Step
I was in denial for a while after the pandemic started. I was stuck with the mindset that things would get better the next week, or the next month. The more time I spent in denial, the more I realized how much stress I was putting on myself. When we have expectations that go beyond the present moment about how we want things to go, we lose the present moment and continually get disappointed when the outcome does not favor our expectations. There are some things I cannot change, and I had to practice letting go and accepting that the world is going to be different for a while, but not permanently. Acceptance does not mean do nothing about the situation, but accepting things as they are is the first step before figuring out what comes next. Once I accepted the way things were, I was able to move on easier.
- Gratitude Is Important
You know the common phrase ‘you never know what you had until it’s gone’? I felt this phrase on an experiential level this year. Being able to smile at a stranger, attend college events, and be part of a large crowd were some of many things I took for granted. These little things have always been normal for as long as I can remember, so I gave little thought to them. Now that it has all changed, I realize how important it is to be grateful for everything in life, because when it’s gone, its absence leaves a mark and I long for what once was. Practicing gratitude has made a huge difference in the way I view the world, and there is so much around me that I am grateful for now—even the sunshine!
- The Only Real Control I have Is Within Myself
Sure, the external world is very different from what it once was. We may not have full control over the scheme of things at this moment, but what we choose to do internally matters. My emotional reactions and attitudes towards any situation shape the way I view the world. When the pandemic first started, I let my anxiety and fear give me a skewed, negative outlook on the situation. As time went by, however, I started to realize the power of the way I choose to react. I learned to shift my attention away from fear and pay more attention to my thoughts and reactions. Instead of being anxious, I practice taking action and looking at things from different perspectives other than negative ones.
- We Need Each Other
We live in a world that favors independence, which is very important in itself. However, now that socializing has been especially limited due to the pandemic, I have been thinking a lot about how much I miss people and being part of a community. Zoom meetings have been a great way to keep human connections alive, but it also makes me appreciate people more. From the essential workers who provide our grocery stores with food, the mailman who delivers our packages, to the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of this pandemic. This pandemic has proven that we need to support and uplift each other to get through times like this.
- Self-Care Is Essential
We are bombarded with so much this year; from the constant issues the media throws at us, to being isolated as we continue to quarantine. This year has been a lot, and it’s so easy to get lost in the external world. What has helped me is prioritizing self-care to nourish myself physically and mentally. Unplugging from social media, practicing meditation and yoga, eating healthier, or just taking a nap are some of many ways I choose to practice self-care!
- We Can Get Through Anything
Finally, no matter how many things are thrown at us, we always find a way to adapt and work through challenges. History has so many examples of times where humanity has come out of challenging times stronger than before. There is always a lesson to be learned with every struggle, and this pandemic is not any different in the sense that it is another challenge that will be in history books in the future including ways we came out of it.
This pandemic is not permanent, but in order to get through this, we all need to play our part by wearing masks, social distancing, and be mindful of cleanliness and sanitation. And once again, be sure to take care of yourself!