Lessons We are Learning from a Pandemic

Life is constantly teaching us if we pay attention and listen.

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In just a matter of weeks, our lives have completely lost their sense of normal. Gone, for the moment, are the days of going out, dining out, working out, sitting out and a few other things that punctuated our days. This is just the latest example of how things can – and do – change in an instant. We can sometimes forget this without the reminder of an event like COVID-19.

Life is constantly teaching us if we pay attention and listen. So, let’s take an inventory of some of the important life lessons we have learned (or re-learned) from our experience with our COVID-19 reality (so far).

  1. Life is fragile. Our health matters most. Not money. Not things. It’s health. People. Emotions. When we realized that a silent killer was among us, we got the reminder that nothing and no one lasts forever. Though you may be quarantined with your family or friends, see them for the fragile beings they are. These beings need care, attention, love and support. Each life matters, whether somebody in your house, business, a service provider or the person in line in front of you at the store. Their lives are as precious as yours. This virus is an equal-opportunity virus – we are all at risk. Fight the urge to ignore the guidance. Stay healthy and stay safe. See others’ lives as valuable as yours.
  2. Our situations and stories matter. We realize as we watch and listen to the news that people are affected in many ways. We tune in to their lives, their stories and their situations of struggle and success. We realize that each of our experiences is creating our story right now. We are reminded to listen to the stories that are being developed in these moments, whether that includes helping a 3-year old understand what the changes mean, listening to a frustrated college student who is missing their friends and navigating the shift of doing classwork online instead of in class, supporting the dad just furloughed because of the shutdown. This is real for them. Something as small as a virus can have a large global impact. Something as small as listening can have a large impact on someone feeling heard, loved and cared for. And in these tough moments, this is what we all need the most. Remember this lesson always.
  3. Life will always surprise us. Expect the unexpected. Realizing this is how life works will help us build the mental and emotional muscle to be resilient, flexible and responsive. We know that we should always be watching, thinking and learning from our world, to determine what to do and how to move forward. Sometimes the changes are wonderful. Other times, they are challenging. Either way, they are coming. We are reminded to always be ready and to be sure our workplaces and homes are ready. Not to be afraid, but to be confidently prepared to live fully, wisely and responsively each day. A great lesson for our kids.
  4. Crisis inspires our best or our worst. In the moment of challenge, some of us rally and support others. Others race for the supplies and take more than their share. Some ensure the people around them are safe and have what they need. Others hoard to be sure they have enough. Human nature shows through, particularly in times of stress and challenge. What did you see in you as you were introduced to the COVID-19 challenge? What lessons do you need to learn to bring your best in challenges?
  5. Patience is required. In a period of uncertainty, challenge and change, we can find ourselves getting more irritated, aggravated and frustrated. These are natural emotions that our brains activate because they connect change with danger. So, our protective emotions of anger and fear (fight and flight) show up more frequently and more intensely. We are reminded to be more mindful and present to this, so when it happens, we understand it and can intentionally work to stay patient with ourselves and others. Self-management, the ability to stay in control of one’s emotions, is always important, but particularly in a crisis. That means we should always be developing calming habits (read, exercise, journal, meditate, bake, sing, write, walk, etc.) to use when our patience is challenged. It creates a calmer mind which can then better and more wisely respond to the situation.
  6. Collaboration is our best response. As the expression goes, “none of us are as smart as all of us.” Virtually every situation is better reviewed, addressed or solved as we work on it together. COVID-19 reminded us that the rules set up about social distance and shelter-in-place, whether at home in quarantine or out in public at a grocery store, work more effectively when we collaborate and work together. We protect others. We share our supplies. We talk about our stories. We discuss ideas and options. We lose the labels of gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Muslim because we must focus as human beings. This virus knows no borders. It is a human event. Life is a human event. It requires us to learn how to continually collaborate.  

To recap, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that life is fragile and everyone matters (COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus; we are all at risk). We show up in a world that constantly changes and surprises us. For those who are reactive, it can bring out their worst – greed, hording and disrespect toward others. For those who see and understand the bigger picture, they are more responsive and use the moments to show their care, concern and greatness. To make it through an event such as COVID-19 requires us to know and use what is best in us, to be patient and collaborative. It is in your mindful response that we will get through things as tough and disruptive as COVID-19 and be better as people on the others side.

What are you learning from COVID-19? How do you commit to getting better each day, regardless of what the day brings?

We have what it takes to survive and thrive with COVID-19. Learn its lessons so the next event, whatever it is, can be handled more successfully.

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