This past March, I was genuinely concerned about the pandemic's implications on my mental health. I was a senior in high school at the time, so losing my graduation, prom, and the second half of the year wasn't exactly ideal. Yet, I pushed myself to see the good. Months later, I can confidently say that this pandemic has done wonders for my mental health.
Yes, you read that right. This pandemic has made me a better, healthier person.
Here are five realizations that have forced me to realize the opportunity in the midst of the struggle.
1. I'm not invincible. I can't fix everything and that is OK.
I know what you're thinking. I'm certainly not some type of superhero trying to make a statement about being human at my core. Trust me, even though several prior incidents have shown me that I am certainly not invincible, this pandemic was the culmination of this realization for me.
I'm a person who loves to have a plan. If it was up to me, nothing would ever change and I would have a minute-by-minute plan of my entire life — living through a pandemic was certainly not on my five-year plan. I genuinely hate to see people in pain, and I want to do everything in my power to stop it. Can you tell that I'm an enneagram 2w1? I didn't realize how much pressure I put on myself to try and fix everything around me until I encountered the pandemic—something I very clearly could not fix.
I realized that I have spent so much of my life trying to make everything fit together perfectly and have it all together. In this situation, I certainly didn't have it all together, so I had to surrender to the unknown and push myself to trust, not control.
2. I'm reminded of what matters most in life (and what doesn't).
I have several family members and friends, such as my mom, who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. From grocery store employees to nurses to teachers, I'm reminded that every one of these professionals is someone's mother, father, sister, or friend.
I've had family friends mourn the loss of a loved one and I realize how easily that could be me. The same is true of the victims of the pandemic. It's easy to watch the news and become almost apathetic to the statistics, but seeing these numbers reminds me of how fragile life truly is. I've realized what really matters in this life — celebrating each day like it's my last and hugging my loved ones a little tighter. We don't know what those we pass in our daily life are going through, and for many victims of COVID-19, they were otherwise healthy. They never imagined getting sick. I don't want this to scare us, but rather, to force us to live with intention and compassion. Let the car merge in front of you on the way to work. Wear your mask. Love each other well.
3. I've realized what's good for the soul.
I put off several of my goals and even leisure activities because I thought I was too busy to do them or that they weren't important. Since quarantine, I've realized how easily I can make time for the things that matter to me, and that I have a responsibility to my mental and physical health to do so. I've pushed myself to realize that doing things that are good for the soul shouldn't be some grand ordeal, but a more routine act of renewal and stillness. People that know me well know that I'm happiest when I'm busy and rushing from one event to the other, but I've realized just how harmful this mentality can be.
Upon this realization, I've started taking time to say three things I'm grateful for before my feet touch the floor each morning. I've started watching the sunset — something I used to think was a waste of time. I've written poetry. I've taken time to stretch and read and genuinely listen when others are talking to me. Taking a small fraction of my day for something that brings me joy reminds me to remember what kind of life I am trying to create for myself—and others around me.
4. I've become more independent and set boundaries.
I'm an extrovert by nature, so I thrive on my daily interactions with others, even complete strangers. I am very much the girl who waves at complete strangers when driving and stops to pet every dog on my walk. Before the pandemic, I didn't realize how much I genuinely feared being alone and how harmfully this fear translated into my daily interactions. This realization compelled me to truly consider each of my relationships with the people around me. Are these people improving my life for the better, or are they draining my energy? Are they giving the same amount of effort that I am? Is my friendship helping them or just enabling them?
Ultimately, I've realized the power of setting boundaries — including myself. I've encouraged myself to reflect when others aren't around me and enjoy the feeling of being alone, as ridiculous as that seems. I've realized that I don't need to constantly please others and bend over backward to be worthy of love. I've realized that who I am authentically is worthy of celebration and love, even when I don't feel like it.
5. The hard things can help us grow — but only if we let them.
There have been days where I expected to wake up and have everything go back to normal. For the first few months of quarantine, I was upset. COVID-19 had stolen so many things away from me, but I realized I couldn't let it steal one thing — my grit. One of my favorite quotes is "Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away." So often when we face challenges, we find ways to run away. We try to justify our quitting by saying that there is no possible way that it could change us. Maybe it's going to take a pandemic to teach us to have true grit. Even if we try, we can't simply ignore the pandemic — it has reached into all aspects of our life, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Maybe these past few months aren't a waste, but an opportunity. I've realized how much I've limited myself just by my fear of failure and letting things change, but this pandemic has shown me the beauty in hardship and the glory in allowing things to change us.
Ultimately, this pandemic has given me lots of time to reflect, and I would encourage you to do the same. I clearly don't have everything together. There are days where I want to completely disregard the entirety of what I just wrote, but to do that would be to surrender. We can't give up the fight. Keep going, friends. It will be worth it. I promise.