Midway mark: Looking back and moving forward

Flipping the calendar to see July 2021 made the past eighteen months seem surreal. The lockdown during 2020 was difficult enough, but now more than halfway through 2021, many are finding it just as mentally challenging to re-enter the world — whether that’s due to social anxiety or health concerns. As we continue to adjust to the ongoing changes, there is comfort to be found in the reflection process. While you read through my list of lessons learned, I encourage you to think about what 2020 meant to you. What have you gained from these lessons? How have these lessons redefined you, both personally and professionally?

  1. Connection is key. By nature, we are designed to be social beings. When human connection and social interaction are taken away, people begin to experience negative consequences in regards to their mental health. Even for self-proclaimed introverts, some physical proximity with others is vital to maintaining a healthy mind.
  2. Technology will always play a role in our lives. For some — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — social media was seen as a necessary evil. While brimming with potential and possibilities, social media was generally perceived to be toxic to one’s emotional health. However, being physically distant from others changed our overall view. The unique circumstances meant that oftentimes, our only form of connection existed thanks to tools like Zoom, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other digital media.
  3. Telemedicine is here to stay. Prior to the pandemic, mental health professionals viewed telemedicine with trepidation, at best. This soon changed when in many parts of the country, telemedicine and its adjunct, teletherapy, became lifelines to people struggling with mental health concerns. Without available in-person visits, these services offered monumental gains in terms of accessibility, convenience and flexibility.
  4. Our understanding of the essential worker has changed. We all saw the viral videos of neighbors applauding hospital staff at the end of their grueling shifts at the onset of the pandemic. Major metropolitan cities served as the backdrop of many of these images as the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. However, we also became keenly aware of the tireless efforts displayed by grocery store employees, delivery drivers, pharmacy workers, food processing plant workers, and many others whom we could not live and operate without.
  5. Navigating change can be overwhelming. Stress exacts a toll on any individual in different ways. Many of us trudged along bearing multiple losses, health concerns, changes in routine and financial worries. Amid these major hurdles, it was sometimes a minor inconvenience that would serve as the “last straw” — causing an individual to stumble and struggle. It became more apparent just how necessary rest, recovery and resiliency are to carry us through tumultuous times.
  6. Self-care is essential. Mantaining empathy for others is essential, but caring for yourself is equally important. Taking care of yourself is not selfish nor indulgent. Doing so allows you to be more equipped to take care of others. As we’re often reminded during airplane safety instructions, put your mask on first before attempting to help the person beside you.
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