How could I know that on March 7, 2020, I would give my one and only in-person presentation for 2020 to a group of leaders who were meeting in San Antonio for their annual meeting?
When I started work on Monday morning, March 10, something felt very different about the COVID-19 updates. The numbers that were being reported caused me to pause and reflect on what might be the best decision for me and my husband in terms of safeguarding our health. We are both in the high-risk categories.
Not long after the decision, we made to safeguard our health there was a complete shutdown for businesses that put everything on hold. We were thrown into a chaos that not many people had prepared for in advance. The hysteria and hoarding that followed were disappointing to watch.
The impact of the shutdown was felt by countless people, mostly in the ways of earning an income or putting food on the table. No matter how some people were positioned with both during these initial days, some estimates reported that 10X the normal number of people were living with food insecurity and lining up at food distribution centers.
The level of uncertainty grew to the point that one in three people were experiencing one or more mental health symptoms. People who had never experienced anxiety or depression were deep in the grip of it while trying to figure out how to earn an income or feed their families.
The collective suffering was almost too much to bear without even taking the Coronavirus into account. Each day there were record-breaking numbers of people being diagnosed with the disease and worse yet dying from it in isolation from their families and friends. All the while, people were struggling to find ways out of the grips of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The longer the Coronavirus had a tight grasp on the lives of most everyone, the more devastating it was to experience. As the year came to an end and people ignored the warnings about traveling and gatherings, the pandemic reminded us with its numbers that it was not finished with its impact and devastation.
Coming out of the COVID-19 Pandemic, whenever that might be, will bring with it a sense of renewal and starting over for many people.
I think the following three areas might present some of the biggest challenges for those of us when we emerge from this prolonged isolation.
- Time: For many people, the concept of time has been suspended or list its importance. For nearly a year, most people lost their time-bound routines; going to work, coming home from work, socializing with friends, running errands, or traveling. What replaced our individual time routines was time-intensive events on a grander scale-election day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Each of these timed events seemed more stressful in 2020. How will we come out into the time-bound world after our extended recess from it?
- Decisions: For a lot of people, the decisions that have needed to be made during the COVID-19 Pandemic have been at the extremes. Deciding where to make an income or find found for our families was complicated and overwhelming while deciding what to wear on a Zoom meeting became simple-sweats and a professional shirt or blouse. The energy it took to make both the complicated and simple decisions left many people exhausted and often avoiding making any decisions at all. The flood of emotions left many people in a predicament when it came to making clear decisions. How will make decisions in the days after emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- Re-entry: For too many people coming out the COVID-19 Pandemic will mean bringing some heavy mental health symptoms. The challenges that many people have with feeling anxious and depressed will not just go away after the coronavirus is obtained. The lasting effects of PTSD will be felt for years to come, especially by those who were directly impacted by the deadly disease. How will people move out into the world with the personal changes that have had such a massive impact on their lives?
It seems to me that no matter how we were impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the day will come when each of us will emerge and engage with our world again, in new and unsettling ways that we cannot even imagine yet.
I have done a decent job throughout my career of running into risk and taking it head-on. When it comes to my health or the health of those I love, I move towards it with fear, respect, and trepidation, so I am prepared to start out small. The small steps that I take will build my self-confidence and allow me to regain my footing in a world that has played out on Zoom or the television.
I offer these three pieces of advice that might serve other people as they emerge and engage with the world that has gone on without them for nearly a year.
- Support: Seek and share support in tangible ways that are meaningful to you and those you love.
- Accountability: Hold yourself and your loved ones accountable for moving forward.
- Check-Ins: Reach out to your loved ones when they come to mind, never hesitate.
When people try to bolster us up during trying and challenging times, they unintentionally use language that strikes anger and fear.
We are not all in this together unless we are willing to engage and express our support, affection, and concern for others in tangible and meaningful ways. Words alone do not put us in the same boat.
Make the difference that is possible in your life and the lives of those you love by taking action towards the solutions.
With much gratitude.
This post is republished on Medium.
Photo credit: Shutterstock