Pandemic and dealing with the unknown was tough last year, especially for those living in the hard hit zones, the initial phase was excruciatingly difficult as no one around the world & in other states could understand what we were going through!
Who could relate to us?
None of our friends in different parts of the world could relate to what we were experiencing. Everyone had a point of view and advice, however could not spend time in listening to how we felt emotionally. I chose not to talk about it, I chose not to discuss it, let us keep the positivity going, keeping negative folks out of our radar became the norm. Those in our local communities were the first ones to understand the pain points as we were all going through stuff together! Relatability was high!
Those who are on whatsapp channels would have experienced the flurry of relative groups being synonymous of news channels and commentary about politics from all corners of the world! From making fun of the stocking medicines, amenities to the failing systems and importance of the medical professionals and front line workers, these groups would have seen it all. Venting out in these groups would seem to be the easiest – as someone would finally end up calling you and it genuinely helps channel your frustration.
Many of us enjoy virtual friendships, even those who were our school or college friends, are now virtual. If your friend resides in a different country, different state, different city – take it for granted that they might have the best intent during their conversations, however they might not be able to relate to what you are going through! Sustain your friendships and seek common ground to lift each other up during tough times! It is easier to draw boundaries and restrict ourselves from conversing, however opening up on any topic and talking to friends helps relieve ourselves of stress during these times. Laughing at friends and being laughed at, seeing the irony in the situation is needed! Sometimes the conversations with your best friends might turn out into angry arguments – however, realize that these are ways in which you relieve your tensions and not hurt your long term friendships!
Be they leaders of the world or homemakers – everyone needs to have a space where they feel comfortable. We lost that feeling of being in control, or at least being able to see ourselves control anything. Everything mostly was in the unstructured zone. Helplessness was a common feeling that we all went through and figured out a way to deal with. First thing, prioritize self, have a protocol for family, ensure folks at home living under the same roof are fine physically and mentally. Have an avenue to check on them periodically and of the time left, see how we can contribute to work and community.
Multi-generational households quickly figured out support systems who can help cook, clean and organized themselves to be able to step up and support the community by sewing masks and other PPE products. Something that we all used to wake up for during those initial days. Our contribution directly matters to someone who is out there facing the field was a tremendous morale booster at the community level.
Checking on children
News about school and college kids going through phases of depression and getting them out of it was a critical activity for many. Those who had a good network of friends created human social chains to support & check on each other periodically, and those who did not tried to figure their way out by dealing with their emotions by themselves, or with help from family or outside.
In the initial phase when the grocery stores were running out of essential items, there was panic buying. However, it reduced over a few months. Many had stocked up food, medicines and essentials to not have the necessity to step out for a few weeks or a month max. Door delivery had paused for a while and resumed.
The intent to do good and help & support each other would be high, and everyone would want to do a fundraiser for their close ones. If you are in multiple networks, you would have multiple fundraising requests coming up. You know your financial situation and how much you can donate. You get to choose whom you donate to, how, and if not, how you choose to contribute. Do not feel pressured or guilty that you could not accommodate the requests of all those who reached out to you. Do share your best wishes and prayers! While you may not disclose your financial situation to others – you cannot be judged based on it as well.
Learning at school
Be they modes of learning, teachers learning technology, video based sessions, tests, exams and quizzes – everyone has figured out how to handle these in an extremely short span of time. Everyone has their shortcuts and the students graduating these years would sense what they have missed for a long time. Homework that used to take 30 minutes now takes 2 hours to complete.
Music was one of the ways that students used to let off steam and calm their minds. With that moving to virtual, the essence of it being lost, students tend to writing, TikTok videos and other modes of self-expression. Being able to sustain the same level of interest and continue playing when you are unable to meet your teacher for an in-person session or meet with your group / band and play made folks question their original choices.
Leaders need to understand, respond and organizations need to be able to deliver to whatever are the revised necessities. Change takes time. While issues can come up instantly, solutions cannot evolve instantly. They need to be planned long-term for effectiveness. Dealing with unknowns all around and trying to create a scope to rectify the situation takes leadership and time. Hats off to the organizations and front line teams dealing with the change and being able to support us all through! When the numbers started climbing up, all we needed to do was to safeguard ourselves and our families by following the protocols!
Friends in our circle / network have different ways of coping. For some it was the pressure of a lockdown, for others it was survival. Everyone had their ways of dealing with grief and spreading positivity. What was tough to tolerate was hate-speeches, extensive amount of data and analysis, news channels focusing on the worst part of the pandemic. Switching off from the social media, and TV channels and creating our own ways to cope and deal with events happening in and around us helped! There are always some easy-targets whom the media focuses on and everyone’s anger and frustration turns towards them – be they individuals, organizations or countries. Feel comfortable to Unfollow people, Exit groups, Delete apps that do not serve your purpose or those that increase your panic/anxiety.
Faith and prayers
Create your own prayer routine. For some it might be chanting, for other fasting, for some listening to peaceful calming music, for some reading scriptures. For some it might be as simple as gazing at the sky or walking on grass, or just cutting vegetables silently. While multiple whatsapp groups, Telegram groups, youtube live programs came into play during this time – across all religions and cultures, join the one that works for you. Participate or listening to calming music or scriptures helps calm minds down. Key is – do whatever works for you as an individual. It cannot become another area that you stress about.
What if someone in your family is hospitalized or tests positive? Have a protocol to quarantine, or a support mechanism setup for an emergency. Make sure all your family members including children are aware of it – just in case adults fall sick, someone needs to know what to do…
What did we do?
- Remain connected with those who lived locally
- Avoid watching / reading / listening to excessive news
- Stop tracking COVID online stats
- Delete browsing history on frequently used apps every few days (else recommended videos flood your inbox)
- Avoid deliberating on what-if scenarios
- Discuss the emergency protocol with your family
- Grieve with those who share memories about the ones who have passed away (not with others)
- Buddy up to stay physically active
- Steam inhaling if you sense you are getting a cold
- Watch light comedy or shows that would relax and calm us down
- Figure out something that you would do as a family while indoors – Gardening / family games / food etc.
- Pray and/or help someone in need
- Focus on what we can control
- Check on friends and relatives and talk to them when possible