When I first heard about COVID-19 last December, I admittedly brushed it off as a foreign affair and went on about my holiday business. I continued to work and travel and plan ahead until early March, when returning from a trip to Utah I discovered that COVID-19 could no longer be considered a foreign affair. I walked out of my office mid-day in early March to finish my work from home, not realizing it would be the last time I walked through those doors for a long time to come.
Like most Americans, my eyes were glued to the TV as news began to break about the pandemic and the deeply terrifying uncertainty set in. Our focus shifted from our to-do lists and weekend plans to something much bigger than ourselves as we sorted through news updates, classifying them as real concerns or fake news. For the first time in most of our lives, we had no idea what the future held for ourselves or our loved ones, and it sat heavy on our shoulders.
This feeling I’m describing is not foreign to anyone. What we are feeling is anxiety, caused by changes in routine, uncertainty, fear, and so many other factors that COVID-19 unexpectedly dropped on us.
It’s easy to see the negative things that the pandemic has brought us. I mean easy. And while I’ve definitely had some really tough moments in the past couple of months, I’ve done my best to combat this anxiety by focusing on the positives of quarantine. In doing this, I discovered that there are actually quite a few things we have to be grateful for, which makes that anxious, uncertain feeling a little easier to deal with.
1. Time to Reflect
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills a person can have, both for personal and professional reasons. Once you’ve become aware of the why behind your own thoughts, actions, and reactions, it’s easy to see through others who aren’t aware of their own ego and the emotions that drive their actions, which in turns helps you realize the things you can and can’t control.
Since quarantine, I’ve had the time to meditate and reflect daily; allowing my true-self to come forward and identify when my ego steps in with an emotional response. It’s also helped me realize that certain situations are not worth the mental time and dedication I’ve given to them, and this has resulted in a re-alignment of my priorities that gives me a chance to make an even greater impact.
2. We’re Forced to Stop and Listen
What better time for a social movement than when everyone has no choice but to stop and listen? With people confined to their homes and increasingly active on social media, Black Lives Matter finally got the spotlight they deserved on the social injustices occurring in this country. While cases like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are certainly not the first or only ones, they were able to take the spotlight at a time while everyone was listening and finally have their message heard, which in turn has already begun to change the world.
3. Seeing Our Living Spaces Differently
As a renter, I’ll admit that I haven’t spent much time at home over the past year since we’ve moved in. With our busy schedules and travel, we seldom spent a full day hanging out at home, but instead are mainly here for weeknight dinners and to sleep.
Enter COVID-19. Not only was I home more, but my home became my office. I slowly started to notice things around the house; bare walls, a need for more blankets, a lack of kitchen gadgets or outdoor seating. We started by turning the spare room into an office, and have slowly been improving our living space since. Friends have commented on how “homey” it feels now, and it wouldn’t have gotten the TLC it needed without a pandemic forcing us to slow down.
4. Spending Less Money
I’m the first to admit I made a couple quarantine purchases (I needed a hammock if I was going to be confined to my home for months on end, amIright!?) but what I noticed immediately was how much I was saving. While our grocery bill went up, we weren’t dining out or going to bars, which probably cost at least twice as much a week as groceries. In addition to not spending money on travel, activities, and other unnecessary expenses, we were more conservative with our spending as we were unsure what the future had to hold.
While we were fortunate enough to continue working, I was also able to pay off my credit card and put some money into savings, and this has helped me create a habit of saving more money and avoiding making impulse purchases.
5. 0% Student Loan Interest
Speaking of saving money, as I mentioned in this article on how COVID-19 is affecting student loans, those with federal loans were granted 0% interest for 6+ months, through September 2020. If you have federal loans, and are able to make higher payments right now, I highly encourage you to do so!
6. Re-evaluated Life Goals
As we are forced to stop and step out of the cushy comfort zones we’ve been in for so long, we start thinking about the life we live and what we’re doing with our time. Our career path, our interests, where we’re living, who we’re living with, what drives us to succeed, how we even define success. This differs from person to person, but I’ve felt it myself and have seen others going through it as well.
COVID-19 has forced us out of the comfort zone that is otherwise hard to get out of, and we now have the opportunity to re-evaluate our own lives and decide how we want to living moving forward.
7. Deeper Connections
For the first couple of months, Friday nights were reserved for Zoom calls with friends, Houseparty hangouts, and even digital trivia games. We called each other to checkin and see how things were going, we had deep conversations about the uncertainty and fear we all felt. We nurtured relationships that would otherwise be easy to brush off during our busy daily lives, ultimately former deeper connections with those we hold close.
To me, stronger relationships with those I care about is probably the greatest things I’ve gained from the pandemic.
8. Better Work-Life Balance
Pre-COVID, my weekdays were a mad dash at 6:30AM to catch a train, followed by an hour and fifteen minute commute to get to my office. After 8 hours, I would do the same thing, not returning home again until about 6:30PM. Tasks like grocery shopping and cleaning were reserved for Sundays because there simply wasn’t enough time during the week.
Now my routine is very different. I wake up (most days) at 7AM, clean the dishes from the night before and straighten up the house. I’ve started a skincare routine that I do each morning, followed by making coffee and some yoga and meditation before work starts. Some days I use my lunch break to order groceries or swing by the butcher shop, meaning that when I’m done at 5PM the rest of the day belongs to me.
As someone who has always had a 1+ hour commute, this new routine has given me so much more time to do the things that are important to me.
Vanity isn’t as Important
Speaking of skincare routines, makeup was something I no longer felt the need to put on daily. I wasn’t spending money on new clothes because, well, no one would see them. I continued to exercise and eat healthy, but not for other people but instead for myself.
Looking good for others wasn’t as important anymore, instead I wanted to look and feel healthy and natural, and noticed this trend forming for others as well. While I still enjoy getting dolled up from time to time, I no longer feel like I have to, and it’s pretty damn freeing.
While COVID-19 has been the most unexpected plot twist of 2020, it has brought some positive impact to our lives as well. It’s easy to drown in the uncertainty and fear we’ve all felt since this started, but it’s important to focus on the things we have to be grateful for now more than ever.
What other positive trends have you noticed from quarantine during the pandemic? Share in the comments below!