What Is Coronavirus Teaching Us About Ourselves?
As the pandemic eases, we have seen how it has impacted nearly every corner of the world. There has been a big shift in the importance of countries and communities working together as we tackle the unusual circumstances in this time of uncertainty. Here, we take a brief look at the unforeseen impacts this period is having on us as individuals and the lessons we’re learning.
Across the globe people have been navigating the pandemic’s storm together, whilst, of course, from somewhat different boats. Social media provides a window into people’s lives showing a snapshot of the similarities, trending in any period of time. But it seems when a pandemic hits – our windows open like never before; the content is almost constant. From balcony tennis with neighbours, local lockdown concerts, morale boosting videos of stay-at-home activities. This shared experience is unprecedented and shows us just how widely connected the world can be.
Being social creatures, we have relied heavily on technology and social media to stay connected during this time, from the essential information flow of government health guidance, to sharing moments with loved ones from afar. Of course, we’re more exposed than ever before to global conspiracies, celebrity opinions and the scary depth fake news can go to, but does social media also offer us a lighter, brighter side? A space for community? Relating, being vulnerable? Marketing, promoting awareness and activism? For me personally, when I’ve looked for it and invited it, I’ve found a safe and supportive space where a large section of society has been coping with the formidable impact of this pandemic, virtually, together. From seeing the Instagram stories of home learning chaos, to virtual quiz nights and video call games like Houseparty, to the kindness of strangers offering local help on platforms such as Nextdoor. Perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom.
Lesson One: Your Business is Changing
We know some businesses are closing – from small start ups, like small yoga centres, to larger companies, like Hertz, Carluccios and Debenhams. But some brands are stepping up to adapt and inspire their audiences. We see some organisations forced to think creatively. Where possible, all non-furloughed employees are working from home – something only a minority of companies were prepared to trial previously. Even the phrase “Working at home” is being called up to change to “Living to Work.” People are carving out work time and working space in their, perhaps temporary, perhaps new and permanent lives.
Lesson Two: New Ways to Nourish
The scale of the pandemic has certainly increased my anxiety, bringing about feelings of overwhelm, but equally highlighting the need to pause and nourish, focussing on what I can do, not what I can’t. With beauty and wellness venues, and places like cinemas, theatres and gyms only now beginning to look at opening up, many have had to think differently about how they look after themselves. Self-care routines have been revised with home workouts, and yoga and meditation classes all moving online. Whilst retail therapy is beginning to see socially distanced queues forming, nearly all shopping experiences will transform in some way to support the ongoing health and safety measures. Takeaways and delivery services have thrived, and many have enjoyed the opportunity to grow their own ingredients, to cook and try new meals at home.
Lesson Three: An Opportunity to Listen
Many have been forced to spend a lot more time at home with family. An unexpected result for many, but for some, particularly children with trouble home-lives and marriages close to divorce, it will have been a space that only magnified the existing issues at home. For those living solo, some will have flourished in their own company, delighting in the disconnect from others and being left alone (for once!), but some will have suffered from acute loneliness on a whole new level. Self-isolation for me has encouraged an intense self-reflective insight into my own emotional triggers, and how I trigger others in my home. How I cultivate kindness towards myself, and within my community. Lockdown has covered several key awareness campaigns including Mental Health Awareness Week, Men’s Health Week and Pride Month. At this time, people are in more open positions to absorb, take time to learn and adapt to new concepts and consider their own opinions and even question their values. The Black Lives Matter movement spiked during the last few months bringing to light many injustices that did not previously have the space or the opportunity to be heard. I’ve found myself in deeper conversations, on longer calls than ever before discussing how to be a better ally, how to get uncomfortable in conversations around race and justice. How to listen better.
Lesson Four: Create To Adapt
Lockdown has seen a rise in creative pursuits, learning new skills, like roller skating, a new language, and cultivating new habits, like drinking less, walking more, cooking healthier meals. Many have been furloughed, lost jobs and businesses. Some on the front line have even been called back to work, or have simply never before experienced the level of work that this period has asked of them. Families have felt the effects of disconnection, depending wholly on remote connection. As lockdown restrictions ease, single parents have had to endure limited support bubbles and grandparents are only just beginning to meet their newest grandchildren. Where possible, schools have desperately scrambled to get children back into classrooms for the last few weeks of term and are beginning to assess the educational impact caused. A natural antidote to these pressures has left people creating new games, new ways to connect, and new skills to cope during these extraordinary times.
A new world
As the coronavirus spread, so too has the need to adapt. Conflicts in how to stand in a queue, judgements cast about government action, conspiracy theories why 5G is really here and the global fear that we are all vulnerable to…well, everything, has us peaking and troughing, ducking and diving to create some sense of normality. Now, as we begin to re-emerge, the need to reflect and plan, at least in the short term, seems possible. Societies are being called to action; to contribute, to think differently, to listen to the good news as well as the hard-to-hear news. To bring back balance, to take time to slow down, to be bored, to be inspired. To be present, with ourselves. To repair and heal, acknowledging our differences with kindness, curiosity and creativity.
Whilst there are many more lessons being learnt, and yet to be learned, as individuals we are nourishing roots and, to some degree, emerging from lockdown as new versions of ourselves. As a collective, new ways of life, like seedlings, are surfacing – and in some places, just starting to flower. Will these lessons launch us into a new era of life after lockdown? Will this be the new normal? New community-conscious societies? More open attitudes towards each other, more kindness towards ourselves? New businesses are inevitable and new working lives, essential. We are, perhaps, entering a new world.