If I have gained anything from COVID-19, it is undoubtedly a greater depth of knowledge and awareness about myself and society. The mandated quarantine across the nation served as the ultimate impetus to re-evaluate what has always been regarded as “normal”. Despite the problematic circumstances, my time in isolation was not only beneficial, but necessary. In the midst of complete darkness and uncertainty, I found light and clarity by reframing the negative mindset that the world around me seemed to be trapped in; this is what I learned.
- There is power in creating an internal state that is not dependent upon external factors. Is your mood determined by the present situation or the environment that you’re in? Mine used to be too. If it was cold and rainy, I was easily agitated. If I received a poor grade on a test, I was disappointed in myself all day. If someone around me was angry, I was too. But when we are vulnerable to extraneous circumstances, our happiness is always going to be in someone else’s hands.
Contrary to what many people believe, an inner state of contentment is created solely and entirely within the self; no dream career, perfect relationship, or amount of money could ever sustain lasting happiness. During quarantine, I simply did not allow myself to succumb to the negativity that radiated from news outlets, classmates, and family. Every day, I intentionally regulated my thoughts to construct a healthy mindset; it was this cultivation of optimism that that powered me through isolation. We are the masters of our own life after all; while we cannot control what happens to us, we can always choose how to perceive it.
- Implementing healthy habits is crucial. One of the first things I did in quarantine was establish a routine. I saw the extra time off as an opportunity to reset my life; a chance to do the things that I told myself I didn’t have time for during the school year.
Unfortunately, making a goal and being committed to it are two separate things. So instead of just planning to read, exercise, etc., I integrated each one of them into my daily routine by making them habits. For example, every day at around the same time and for the same duration, I followed an exercise routine video online. After a couple of weeks, it became natural to work out during the day and I am still continuing this habit now. By making them regular practices, it did not take much willpower or discipline to do them since I made the actions automatic. The actions that you perform daily either enable you to jog in place or climb a mountain- how you mold your life is in your hands every day.
- View every situation as an opportunity to make a positive impact. As I mentioned above, I saw quarantine not as a freedom inhibitor but as a chance to become better and do good. We fortunately live in a digitalized world where assisting another is just a few clicks away.
I began volunteering for a non-profit tutoring program, which I really enjoyed doing. It also felt good to know that I could contribute during these times that are unimaginably hard for many. While taking care of yourself is necessary, so is taking advantage of the privileges you have to help others. Sometimes, it may seem like there is nothing you can do, but feeling helpless does not mean there are no ways to help- there always are. Also, the size of your impact does not have to revolutionize the world to count!
- Finding an outlet of self-expression is essential to keep your sanity. Unless you were living on a deserted island during the months of March and April, I am sure you know what I mean when I say the world was like a vicious tornado that completely swept up any sense of peace you had in your life before it struck.
COVID-19 seemed to have been accompanied by a plague of negativity—except unlike the pandemic, the plague is inescapable. Because I have always found refuge in writing, I turned to journaling which perfectly balanced out the instability of everything that was going on. It had become such an integral part of my day that I filled an entire notebook during the 2 months of quarantine.
If you are anything like me, sometimes the hurricane inside your mind just needs to chill; for me, writing it out did the trick. For others, it may be talking with someone you trust, exercising, or even painting. Whatever it is, finding something that brings stability and releases any built-up stress is vital. We inevitably absorb so much throughout the day, but too often we forget to actually process everything, which only adds to the chaos.
- Remain grateful for what you have now because you never know when it will be gone. It is extremely disappointing to let go of the hopes that you were holding onto this year. But no matter how bad the situation gets, there is always an alternate situation that is much worse. Every day we can choose to appreciate the things and people we still have; it is through the flashlight of gratitude that hope and light can be cultivated within seemingly bleak, dark circumstances.
These five truths that this year illuminated, has allowed me to step out of the tunnel that I was in to see things from a completely new perspective. The new awareness that I experienced by being forced to step out of normalcy was a revelation, not only for me but, for the entire world. For example, racial justice and environmental advocacy have increasingly emerged to society’s attention. This shows the power of a transition from order to disorder: it forces us to wake up. In this way, COVID-19 was the alarm clock we all desperately needed.