The Upside of the Pandemic

Over the last 12 months, everyone on the planet has made enormous changes to our daily routines and habitual behaviors. As someone who helps people change unhealthy habits, I know this can be HARD work… and yet, while we were looking the other way, 2020 has brought some incredible gifts in this way.

Of course, Covid-19 and the response to the pandemic have brought unfathomable hardship to millions through illness, unemployment, healthcare and economic inequities, substance abuse, domestic violence, and fear. The loss and devastation are real.

However, as humans we are naturally inclined to orient towards the negative – to focus on the danger or downside of any situation. This is part of our biological inheritance, as over the millennia we have fought predators and circumstance to make our way to the top of the food chain. It paid off to be on the lookout for danger. 

But now, as a species, we’re not at such constant risk of dismemberment. In fact, in many ways, the tables have turned completely around, and the new threat has no fangs or claws. 

The biggest cause of death in the US, according to the CDC, is heart disease – a diverse set of illnesses, many of which are deemed preventable “lifestyle” diseases caused by our own routine behaviors – namely, sitting too much, eating unhealthy foods, smoking, overeating, using alcohol and drugs, and the big hidden one: staying stressed. For many, “stressed” has become our normal state.

So here we are riding out a pandemic that has brought the topic of health to the forefront of our global attention – and yet we may be missing a fabulous opportunity to actually focus on our health, to turn up our awareness of the changes we’ve already made, and strengthen those gains through celebration and repetition. 

We can consciously reduce our own stress, and our fear, by turning our attention to the positive outcomes we are currently experiencing. This conscious steering of our eyes to the upside can have profoundly positive effects on our stress, our heart health, our mental state, and countless other measures of health. 

To help reduce your stress, take a moment to ask yourself these questions: What good things have come out of the changes I’ve made in the last 12 months? In what ways am I healthier, more content, more connected, or less stressed?

Here are some of the answers I’m hearing from my clients, family and friends:

  1. “I’m eating WAY more home-cooked meals, which are definitely healthier than all the lunches out I used to eat, literally every day.”
  2. “I have closer friendships with my neighbors who really feel like supports if something were to go wrong.”
  3. “I’ve saved more money this year than I ever have before. I’ve realized I need way less stuff.”
  4. “I may never commute again. Seriously. I’ve gained about an hour and half EVERY DAY, and now I can’t believe I was driving that much before without even thinking it was a big deal. That’s gotta mean less pollution.”
  5. “I’ve unintentionally memorized several recipes that I can pull out of my back pocket spontaneously when it’s dinner time.”
  6. “We’ve completed some home improvement projects that had been looming in my mind for, i don’t know, something like 3 years.”
  7. “My kids planted our first vegetable garden – and we’ve harvested something nearly every week.”
  8. “I’ve started taking daily walks around the neighborhood (sometimes just to get away from the kids!). Honestly, I never was this active before.”
  9. “I’m actually cooking dinner every day, which really was unheard of before, and I’ve fallen in love with my Instant Pot!
  10. I feel less FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Every weekend, I used to feet like I OUGHT to go out and do something because ‘everyone else’ was. Now I’m just content to stay home and read, or make something out back, or play cards with my spouse.”
  11. “I’m spending more time with my kids, and my grandkids. It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted!”
  12. “I actually feel closer to my family members who live far away, thanks to Zoom and FaceTime. We never used to do video calls before, and now we do every Sunday.”

What good things have come out of the changes YOU’VE made in the past year? Or what new activity do you WANT to try now? With spring in the air, now is an excellent time to start a new health-affirming activity – take inspiration from one of the comments above!

Tell us your celebration – or your plan! Comment below…

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