When the pandemic first hit back in March it felt like the world went into survival mode overnight. Terrified and confused, I found myself scrambling to figure out what to do and how best to keep myself safe.
I wasn’t yet thinking about anyone else because when the brain and body are under threat it’s instinctual to ensure your own survival first, even though in modern culture we might call this selfish.
After the initial trauma things seemed to turn more into the aftermath of a disaster. I noticed that friends from the past started to text and check-in and people in my close circle we were scheduling regular zoom calls to connect and share the experience.
In general, between March and June I was pretty socially connected. In fact, I think I was more interactive with people than I had been pre-pandemic. I am admittedly an introvert and enjoy being alone, but I also know that staying connected is essential for my wellbeing, so it was actually a perfect scenario that I was being handed a built-in support system.
It seemed like we were all in it together and no matter where I turned there was some kind of resonant experience to be found with someone.
I remember noticing that there were several free support groups, workshops, yoga classes, community meditations and all sorts of wellness opportunities filling my social media accounts and inbox. Even the app Headspace was waving their fee to make sleep and meditation more accessible to the masses.
The pandemic threw us into a mental state that most people could go a lifetime never experiencing. Our lives became little microcosms, we became newly obsessed with family, friends, home, food, and even toilet paper.
Priorities immediately shifted away from our busy lives and the pursuit of success and achievement toward what we were quickly learning really matters to each and every one of us. In essence, we were connecting with our core values without even knowing it.
Friends were taking long walks together, many of us became avid cooks and bakers, and we organically travelled back in time to a more ancestral style of living that was founded on dependency, self-sufficiency, and community.
As bad as things we were, they were in a way better for us.
Then things slowly went back to a new normal. By necessity many of us had to get back to some kind of work schedule, figure out how we were going to keep the lights on, or in the worst-case scenarios how to find work at all. Kids had to go back to school, and we had to figure out how to redesign our lives as a whole.
Life became busy again, other priorities took precedence once more, and the connections we were fostering with ourselves, others, and the world slipped away.
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.” Mother Teresa
It seems that our sense of community and connecting to our priorities is fostered readily in the aftermath of any tragedy, yet it’s hard for us to sustain this way of living.
In my own life I have been guilty of letting connections slip. Presuming people are “fine” now that things are normalizing and making assumptions that others are too busy or preoccupied.
I too have started to move away from every moment feeling precious into a space where time once again passes too fast.
I think we have all been hoping and praying that there would be some good that comes out of this horrific pandemic. Wondering to ourselves if this would be the “wake up call” we have all needed for real change to happen.
As a psychologist I know how hard it is to maintain a routine that fosters self-awareness and change. It takes great discipline, deep desire, and a real commitment to wanting results.
I also know how little time we all seem to have for our mental and physical health, often not realizing how interconnected our own wellness is to our communities and the world.
None of us are perfect, and we don’t all have what can be considered to be the “luxury” of self-reflection and personal growth, but what I do know is that unless we try and stay on a path of self-actualized behavior there will be no change, and this will all be for not.
At worst this pandemic will be written in the history books as a major tragedy as opposed to the revolution it could inspire, and as a way of honoring the many people who sacrificed and lost their lives because of it.
Every person will have their own unique values and priorities based on circumstance, life phase, age, and many more variables.
What is most important to remember is that whatever those priorities are or become, it’s essential to live aligned with them every day because we each have the power to create what we want to see in the by creating it in our own lives first.