A Year in a Pandemic and the Lessons Learned

Many people have struggled with mental health during this pandemic.

As we pass the one year anniversary of the world shutting down, I’ve thought a lot about everything that has changed since March 2020. Of course, we’ve learned what it means to social distance, we’ve normalized wearing masks and now we are waiting for our turn to get vaccinated. But what greater lessons have we learned in this pandemic?

Usually, reflecting on the pandemic initially brings up negative thoughts, and they are all warranted. We’ve missed graduations, sports games, concerts and so much more. But, I’m a glass half full kind of guy, so I want to talk about some of the positive lessons we can take away from this pandemic.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s difficult to live in an online world. Of course, being part of the digital age, you’d think Millennials and Gen Z-er’s would love to spend more time on our phones, watching Netflix or FaceTiming our friends. However, after hours of Zooms and screen time soaring through the roof, I started to tire from staring at screens. The lack of face-to-face interaction has been especially hard. Being stuck at home for months taught me something crucial: I never grasped the value of being with people, in person, without electronics to distract me, until now. 

I used to get caught up in social media and whatever notification popped up on my phone. Now I realize how insignificant these things are. A year into the lockdown, I think it’s easier to see that we should all appreciate and just live life without worrying about who’s texting us or what someone posted.

Something else that I’ve started to do is reach out to people and make sure they’re okay. The pandemic has had an immense impact on our mental health and well-being, so checking up on those we love is essential. I always appreciate a text or call from someone who I haven’t talked to in a while. A year ago, I would have been caught off guard by someone asking how I am, but now, it is the highlight of my day. It reminds me that we’re all in this together and that things will get better. So, keep checking up on your friends, even if you think they don’t need it. We all do.

The biggest lesson we can all learn from the pandemic is to simply appreciate what we have. This past year has taken so much away from us. We’ve witnessed all that is wrong with the world, amid widespread racial injustice and a polarizing presidential election. It has certainly been a lot, but we should value that we’re still living on this earth. 

It’s hard to be grateful simply for living, since we are living in a time of chaos, uncertainty and stress. I’ve found that reminders like ‘appreciate the small things’ and ‘you only have one chance at life,’ help ground me. It’s easy to constantly think about all that we’ve lost or worry about when the world will be 100% normal. But, trying not to stress out about the future is the key to staying positive. Just remember that this pandemic will end, and for now, we should try our best to think of what we are lucky enough to have in our lives.

Hopefully, these lessons can help to instill a sense of hope for the future for anyone reading –– whether you’re a student, a historian or maybe even my future kids. Know that this past year was really tough, but we’ve done the best we can and learned a lot about ourselves in the process. For anyone frustrated that COVID-19 is still relevant a year later, I’m with you. Remember to celebrate the small victories in life, and remind yourself that you matter. We’ll get through this, one way or another.