From extra time spent with loved ones to new skills learned, COVID-related restrictions provided us the opportunity to slow down and do things a little differently. We were also given space to recognize the things and people that matter most in our lives.
“I think we learned that we can be OK slowing down and being still,” says Maricar Kline, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “The world continued to move, albeit in a vastly different way, without the hustle and bustle with which we filled our lives. In that stillness, we adjusted, prioritized and engaged in valuable activities ‘COVID-style.’”
What got us through
Kline suggests that in the aftermath of COVID-19 restrictions — nearly all of which were lifted in California on June 15 — we can reflect on the things that got us through such a difficult period:
- Friends and family — We remained in contact with a select group of people throughout the pandemic and found new ways to still be in each other’s lives — dropping off supplies that were initially hard to find, birthday drive-by celebrations, socially distanced meetups in driveways, virtual game nights on a group app, family video calls and more.
- Activities — There were certain activities we were not willing to let go, so we joined online exercise classes or created spaces in our homes that helped keep us active; participated in virtual worship and support groups; continued therapy online; took our dogs for walks on new, more open trails; or even found new passions, such as gardening, art and baking.
The gift of time
Both out of necessity and because some of us were given the gift of added, mostly unscheduled time, we also focused on our basic physical and mental health maintenance during the pandemic lockdowns in ways we may not have before. We tried to increase the amount of sleep we got each day, exercise more, avoid alcohol and substance abuse, and maintain a nutritious diet and regular routine.
We also made efforts to keep up connections, practice gratitude and seek out professional help when needed. And while we weren’t always successful in these efforts, we likely became more aware of the importance of finding balance in each area of our lives.
“It is important to maintain this balance,” Kline says. “If we are living in line with our values — those we had and those we discovered — and want a meaningful life, then this past year probably reinforced the importance of taking care of our physical and mental health.”
Honoring the difficulties
However, we can’t discuss the pandemic without recognizing how difficult it was for so many. Jobs, homes and lives were lost; families and friends were separated; people faced illness and financial concerns. The list of stressors created by the pandemic is lengthy.
Yet, according to Kline, each challenge offers an opportunity for growth. In recognizing the negative things we experienced in the past 15 months, and honoring the struggle to get through them and the strength and resilience with which we prevailed, we become better equipped to face future trials.
“Unpleasant emotions — fear, anger, sadness, guilt or shame — might remain, even as the pandemic comes to an end,” she says. “While we can’t just wish those feelings away — in fact, the more we avoid and push them away, the more they persist and escalate — we can manage the distress by honoring the feeling, learning what the feeling is signaling to us, and moving toward resolution or acceptance.”
If, however, you or a loved one experiences prolonged anxiety, despair or depression, Kline recommends that you seek help. “Reach out to a family member or friend and share that you are struggling. And if you notice things are staying the same or getting worse, or if you have thoughts about wanting to end your life, seek professional care,” she says.
Learn more about mental health services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and read important COVID-19 information from Sharp.