Say Thank You More. No one ever complained about feeling “too appreciated”. Normally, it is the reverse. During the pandemic, I found myself saying thank you to everyone. The amazon worker, the gas attendant, the store clerk. I was always grateful for these professions, but the pandemic taught me to say Thank You more.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Nicholas Hardy.
Nicholas Hardy is a psychotherapist in Houston, Texas. He has been in counseling for over ten years and runs a private practice in Houston, Texas. His work is centered on helping adults improve their relationships and leading emotionally healthier lives.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
Originally, I am from Memphis, Tennessee, but currently reside in Houston, Texas where I work as a psychotherapist in private practice (nichardy.com). My personal background is what led me to pursue this profession. I didn’t start out saying I wanted to be a therapist, but neither did I stumble into it either. There has always been an innate passion to help others, as well as several outliers. The biggest being that my mom was a therapist for over 30 years. I found this out after college, but subconsciously, believe the seeds were planted along the way.
When I reflect on life experiences that had the greatest impact on my current self, there are four distinct experiences, which I believe drastically shaped who I am. First, my father struggled with alcohol. In the home, is where I first learned about addiction, and how our bad habits can take away from our own good intentions. At his core, he was a good father and was always there, but inconsistencies and volatility always followed his drinking. As you can imagine, this created a bridge in our relationship periodically. In college, my initial plan was to go into commercial real estate. I liked aspects of it but was never passionate about it. The driving force was to exude a certain image and appear as someone who had successfully figured it all out. As a result, I majored in Economics and Finance but was forced to transfer when I continuously failed. It was embarrassing, to say the least, and financially painful. I now understand the weight of trying to uphold an appearance and the internal frustration of living someone else’s dream. This has helped me relate with people who are nervous about seeking help and has made me that much more committed to the work I do. The third major life experience was living abroad in Argentina. I lived with less but felt a sense of abundance. This experience embedded a sense of gratitude that I work to maintain daily.
The last major life experience for me was getting married. Yes, marriage is life-changing but I have struggled with commitment my entire life. Therefore, getting married was also representative of overcoming this barrier. The benefits of this decision have carried over in other areas too and have allowed me to embrace fear and the unknown with more confidence.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
Yes, I am currently working virtually. In my previous role, I had the opportunity to spend downtime in casual conversations with coworkers. I truly enjoy learning about people, so taking this away reduced the workday to just work. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing because I love what I do, but I also enjoy getting to know people. As an example, the proverbial “how was your weekend” question would spark a lot of good dialogue. I would learn about people’s families, hobbies, etc. Whereas now, if I am not in a counseling session or doing paperwork, these conversations only happen with precise intention.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
Travel. I love traveling to new places and being a complete novice in a new location. Pre-covid, I feel like I had more opportunity to do this, whether through travel or simply going to a new restaurant. Post-covid, my life has centered around routines to establish normalcy.
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
Appreciation for frontline workers and small businesses. I believe the pandemic garnered more appreciation for those who place their lives on the line professionally. I would like to see this continue, along with strategic investments in small businesses. Small businesses create a lot of opportunities that go unnoticed.
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
One of the unexpected positives of COVID has been appreciating time with family and loved ones. Pre-covid, we (me included) lived by a standard that was always on the go. We filled our calendars, and spending time with friends/families was sometimes an afterthought. For instance, I was usually too tired to watch television at night or enjoy a good Netflix series with my wife. However, during COVID I found myself anticipating this time together, and relishing in my newfound hobby. In the process, I learned a lot about my her, and worried less. If I continued on this trajectory (pre-covid), I would have missed a lot of life without every recognizing it.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
I am an optimist by nature, so every other week I felt like we were going to get back to normal soon. If I knew originally how long I would have been locked in the home, I may not have had the same attitude. As I mentioned earlier, I like trying new things. So, one of the things I did to keep my mood up was to buy a BBQ smoker. Previously, I had a gas grill because it was quick, but I taught myself how to enjoy the process of slow cooking on the grill. This also led to countless hours on YouTube.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
My greatest pain has been watching thousands of lives being impacted through loss and economic hardship. I am a helper, but during the pandemic, I felt like I was forced to watch suffering from the sidelines. We all were affected, either directly or indirectly, but seeing families broken due to illness/death and businesses closing their doors birthed a new type of suffering for me. I coped by minimizing how much television I watched and praying.
OK, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You can prepare, and you can plan but tomorrow is not promised. We get fixated on our plans, and our ability to accomplish goals in life. I am in favor of this, but social isolation from the pandemic brought to life this reality more than ever. When I left the office in March, I had planned on coming back to work the following Monday. When I did finally return, it was 7 months later, it felt like a ghost town that had been deserted.
- Work is important, but family and friends are more important. When I thought about what worried me most about the pandemic, it was the safety of my family and friends. I no longer called to see how the “job was going” but instead, how they, as individuals were doing.
- It’s okay to Relax. Relaxing does not necessarily mean being on an all-inclusive resort. Relaxing can come in many different forms, from finding a funny video online, walking around the block outside, or watching television. For some, this comes easy, but this has always been a struggle of mine. As I mentioned earlier, I found so much pleasure in watching a moving on Netflix without worrying about the time, preparing for tomorrow’s day, etc.
- Say Thank You More. No one ever complained about feeling “too appreciated”. Normally, it is the reverse. During the pandemic, I found myself saying thank you to everyone. The amazon worker, the gas attendant, the store clerk. I was always grateful for these professions, but the pandemic taught me to say Thank You more.
- Take a Break from Your Screen. We all are guilty of having too much screen time. The pandemic shed light on this because I was glued to my computer for hours at a time. I realized how much weight I gained, and how stressed I was at the end of the day. I felt exhausted, even though I never left the house.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The pandemic was the worse time to start a new position. However, for me, starting my own counseling practice has always been a dream. During the pandemic, I started my own private practice and took the first step, although I couldn’t see the entire staircase.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Yes, a reader can visit my website at nichardy.com, or they can follow me on social media: Instagram — nichardy_ Facebook — @nichardycounseling
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.