Even as I type this, it is still hard to believe that we are all experiencing and going through a global pandemic. But the reality is that COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives and affected multiple industries across the world.
Every time I turn on the news (which is very rare as we don’t really have cable TV), I feel like we are all living through a weird, politics-filled Black Mirror episode.
Regardless if you believe the virus is real or not, the truth is, Covid has caused so much stress, anxiety, and disruption in just a few months.
All of a sudden, people are forced to stop traveling, isolate, work from home, homeschool their children, and navigate through unchartered waters of a global pandemic.
Admittedly, when this all started, like most people, I found my emotions going through a wild rollercoaster ride. Some days I wake up anxious and worried about where to go and what to do… while on other days, I wake up with nothing but gratitude.
To top things off, both Tom and I got pretty sick around mid-March (right when things were blowing up). For 3 weeks, we had all the symptoms of COVID-19. Fever, body aches, chest pains – the works. Thankfully our symptoms weren’t too bad so we opted to just stay at home and self-isolate as we are both young and healthy.
Despite this, it was still probably the worse few weeks ever as there was just so much uncertainty about the virus. I didn’t know if there were going to be long-term effects, I was worried about being in a foreign country (Mexico), and I just generally felt anxious about everything.
It also probably didn’t help that since travel is our bread and butter, we saw one side of our business (this blog) do a free dive off a cliff. But…such is life!
The thing is…we all deal with crises differently.
Some jumped on the exercise bandwagon, posting their WOD on Instagram. Some cooked and baked their way through this pandemic, while some were left in a rabbit hole of mixed emotions, unable to cope.
If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, worried, or even just fed up with what’s happening in the world, in this article, I want to share a few life lessons that I have learned from COVID-19, while giving you actionable tips along the way.
Hopefully, these tips can help you get through all the craziness happening around us, and give you a few insights on how to stay happy and positive.
Lesson #1: Be Mindful of the Content You Consume
During the beginning stages of lockdown, I found myself going down a rabbit hole of content consumption.
I found myself watching news channels on my phone, reading tons of articles (which all seemed to be doom and gloom), and found myself in a constant loop of negativity. Tom, being the voice of reason, called me out on it one day and basically told me that there is a line between wanting to stay informed and unintentional consumption of information.
I also realized that on days where I binge-watched the news and spent hours on social media, my emotions were at an all-time high. I was on edge and easily triggered by a lot of things.
Generally speaking, as a society, I think we all need to stop thinking of social media and news as facts. Not everything we see there is accurate. Given how easy it is to write something and put it up on the internet now, even more than ever, we have a social responsibility to fact-check everything that we share online.
In fact, due to the rampant spread of misinformation, miracle cures, and preventions, the World Health Organization put up a mythbusters section on COVID-19 on their website where they debunk unproven medical claims.
What to Do:
If you’re finding yourself constantly anxious about what’s going on, get off social media, turn off your TV, and take a walk. If your lockdown laws don’t permit this, light a candle and listen to some relaxing music.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It is a mind-blowing film and is a MUST WATCH in my books.
I also started placing safeguards on how much time I spend on social media. I use the digital well-being timers on my phone and place limits on how long I can spend on my phone. Both Apple and Android phones have this built in their phones. Alternatively, you can also use apps to help you manage your screentime. Check out Zen Desk or Breakfree.
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Lesson#2: Practice Gratitude
Now before you shrug this off, gratitude is in no way a “woo-woo” new age thing. A lot of very smart people have studied gratitude and how it affects the brain and time and time again, they’ve seen concrete results.
According to this article on the neuroscience of gratitude:
“When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.”
When Tom and I started incorporating this into our daily routine, we found ourselves less likely to “sweat the small stuff”. This daily habit allowed me to be more introspective about everything that’s going on and how despite the circumstances, I still had so much to be thankful for.
What to Do:
In a journal, jot down 3 things you are thankful for as you’re about to go to bed (or when you wake up!). You can also opt to use a gratitude journal which has different writing prompts.
If you’re looking for something a little outside the box, these two journals are hilarious.
If you don’t like the idea of a journal, start a gratitude jar and start filling it up with little notes which you can read at the end of the year. Gratitude towards yourself, your environment, your circumstance, and others goes a long way to improve your general mental well-being.
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Lesson #3: Make an Effort to Connect with Friends and Family
Although you’re self-isolating, this doesn’t mean that you can’t connect with friends and family virtually. Thanks to the internet, we’re all able to still build connections and foster relationships with people.
Although it is easier to lounge around in your pajamas, binge-watching your favorite TV series while eating a pint of ice cream, don’t make this the norm.
Go out of your way to socialize online with friends and family and you will find yourself feeling happier and more connected.
As humans, we all need social interaction (yes, even introverts like myself!). COVID-19 has basically forced us to halt all types of social interaction, imposing this new norm of working from home and self-isolation.
Admittedly, since Tom and I already work from home and are used to just being by ourselves when we travel, this wasn’t so difficult for us.
Despite this, we knew we needed to make the effort to stay connected with others, even if you don’t feel the need to. Tom and I made it a point to both set up bi-weekly calls with our families and hopped on calls with friends whom we haven’t spoken to in ages!
I also made it a point to send a message to friends whom I knew were having a tough time because of the pandemic. Mental check-ins with friends are SO important! Plus, I’m sure that small act of reaching out to a friend will go a long way.
What to Do:
- Set up Zoom calls with your family
- Play trivia games with friends
- Join virtual workouts
- Play video games
- Check in on friends
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Lesson #4: Keep Yourself Busy (and No, Netflix Doesn’t Count)
When you don’t have to go to work, when you can’t see friends, or when you feel that the world has literally stopped, you have to keep yourself busy!
Keeping your mind busy on something other than the pandemic will do wonders for your mental health. After we recovered from COVID-19, Tom and I threw ourselves into books. While I usually set myself the target of reading 52 books a year (1 book a week), because of all the “free time” I have, I found myself absolutely crushing that goal.
Nerd Alert: At the time of this post, I am 50/52 books so far which means I’m 12 books ahead of my goal. ?
Aside from reading books, I also used this time to try out elaborate recipes and exercise more. Before the gym in our building opened up, Tom and I set up a TRX gym on our rooftop where we intentionally set aside time to work out (even on days when we didn’t feel like it!).
We saw a rise in our other blogging business as more and more people found themselves looking for alternative ways to earn as they made the most out of the time on their hands.
What to Do:
If reading books isn’t your jam, teach yourself a new skill. Try out a new recipe, order a paint by numbers kit, or learn a new language.
Platforms like Skillshare or Udemy allow you to watch videos on anything from photography, illustration, coding, all the way to dance! (P.S. click this link to get 2 free months of Skillshare.)
Lesson #5: Reflect and Learn
Last but not least, one of the biggest things that Covid has taught me is to be a little bit more introspective.
While I usually live in my own little happy bubble, I found that during this pandemic, my emotions were all over the place – especially when all of this first started.
During this time, I started reflecting and thinking more about myself, my thoughts, how I treat others, and tried to really take a deep dive into who I am as a person and how I treat those around me.
Lockdowns, layoffs, income drops, and collapses within entire industries really got me thinking about the future and the sustainability of travel.
Living here in Mexico during this pandemic was also tough as we really saw the local economy take a hit. As it’s a country that relies heavily on tourism, we saw firsthand how badly people were affected.
While different people will take away different things from this pandemic, I urge you to take the time to reflect and learn from it. For me, I realized two things.
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Nothing is certain. You can get laid off from your job or your business can come to a halt. The only way to stay on top of the game is to make sure you’re constantly pushing yourself to learn new skills. Use these skills to change and adapt when needed.
Don’t take anything for granted
Little things like the freedom of exploring a new country, going for a hike, or even something as simple as hugging a friend. I know friends who have lost loved ones because of Covid and at the end of the day, whether you believe in it or not, nothing is certain. Make the most out of every day, choose to live intentionally, and don’t take things for granted.
What to Do:
Take an hour off your schedule to think and just reflect on what this pandemic has taught you. As I mentioned, this can be completely different from person to person. Try to find at least 2 things you’ve reflected on and write down ways on how to learn from it and incorporate these realizations into your life.
Final Thoughts on My Lessons from COVID-19
Although the circumstances around the world have been tough, at the end of the day, remember that you are not alone. There are 7.8 billion people who are going through similar waves of emotions.
Choosing to be happy, even when it is difficult, goes a long way towards your overall mental health, productivity, and outlook.
Hopefully, this post, albeit a little bit long, gave you some inspiration on how to cope and stay positive during these times.
Wherever you are, stay safe, be responsible, stay grateful… and don’t forget to laugh! Adios.
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