One year into the pandemic
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
It is hard to believe that over one year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Canada. Many people have shared with me that it seems like time has warped. It can feel like life has slowed down in many ways, but has also gone by quickly. Like no other time in modern history, human life on every continent has been affected. To date, over 2.7 million lives have been lost globally, and countless more have changed forever.
It may be a good time to look back and reflect on what we have learned over the last twelve months. Overall wellness depends on many factors, and they can be considered under the categories of Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, and Spiritual wellbeing.
Regular exercise, enough sleep, and a healthy diet have always been the essential components of taking care of the body. Since the pandemic, we have to add more to this list: Wear a mask when you are around people who live outside your household, stay at least six feet away from others whenever possible, and wash or sanitize your hands often.
The pandemic has also shone a spotlight on the importance of mental health. The World Health Organization reports that mental health services were chronically underfunded pre-pandemic, and now this global crisis has increased the demand for mental support and programs. The basic tips for optimal mental wellness include having a routine, limiting screen time, and challenging your brain by reading and games, such as crosswords and puzzles. Also, humans are creative beings and benefit from activities such as art, music, dance, cooking, baking, crafts, or woodworking.
You also want to watch out for negative thought patterns. Do your best to eliminate criticizing yourself or others, and catastrophic thinking (“This will never get better”).
Without a doubt, the ups and downs and uncertainty that the pandemic presents have brought about a range of emotions in everyone – fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, hurt and guilt. It is absolutely normal to react this way in the face of loss, and let’s face it, life doesn’t look the same as it did at the beginning of 2020. The important thing to keep in mind is to let yourself feel these things for a little while and secondly, find a healthy way to channel this energy. Contrary to popular opinion, crying and tears are a natural way to release tension, show strength, and re-energize, rather than weakness. Spiritual writer and Franciscan priest Richard Rohr says, “If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.”
With pandemic guidelines, we have sadly had to keep physically distant from family, friends, colleagues and community. This, arguably, may be the most challenging adjustment for people. We must connect with most people using telephone and video calls. Humans are not built to be isolated, so this has been most challenging for people who live on their own. We must now initiate conversations more, be patient with each other and cheer for others who are having a tough time.
Living through this pandemic has certainly impacted our overall perspective, and that includes our connection to other people and matters that are not material or physical. Some rely on faith and religion to try to understand and cope with so much change. No matter what your beliefs are, we have learned spiritual lessons about how to cope. We can try to make things as simple as possible, and intentionally find time for quiet and deep breathing. Aim to live in the moment, rather than worrying about the future all day or reliving past regrets.
Above all, when you are having a difficult time, try helping someone else. It may give you a different perspective, distract you from your own problems, and leave you feeling that life is indeed, still beautiful.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive; to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.