What a Year It’s Been!: Coping with the Extremes of the Pandemic

Looking out over the falling snow during our most recent three foot snowstorm I was struck by how the extremes of the weather matched the extremes of our past year with COVID-19. March 2020 our schools, businesses, governments, places of worship, gyms, hair salons…everyone and everything began to shut down and turn inward. The impact has been wide and far-reaching, the extent of which is still unknown.

Some families found a new closeness and connectedness that was previously elusive. I’ve witnessed marriages strengthened by daily lunches at home, ambitious home improvement projects on the weekends, and training together for virtual marathons. Kids who were really struggling with in-person school report they are now thriving with one-on-one attention from parents. Elders who were living alone and far away from relatives are now happily cohabitating with adult children and grandchildren, enjoying new multi-generational learning and growth. On the other end of the spectrum I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of families breaking apart. Children who experienced school as a safe place away from the chaos of home have been struggling to cope. Partners who kept their relationship a float by spending most of their time away from each other have been faced with the painful reality that they need to separate. People of all ages living alone have faced long stretches of time without physical contact.

Work experiences reveal similar extremes. Some people’s jobs lend themselves easily to working from home, utilizing technology. Certain fields have even found themselves thriving during the pandemic and able to compensate their employees. Others have been in and out of work, on and off unemployment, and living in daily uncertainty where the next bag of groceries will come from. Small family businesses, open for generations, have had to permanently shut down or reinvent themselves with limited resources.

We’ve found living and interacting with others during these extreme times require specific coping mechanisms. 1) Don’t assume your experiences are the same as other people’s. It’s helpful to approach others with curiosity. How do they feel about their relationships, career, and overall experience? Ask questions with the goal of learning, not judging. 2) Don’t rank your or other peoples’ COVID-19 experiences. It can be easy to fall into minimizing (“I have it so good compared to other people!”) or the victim mentality (“If only I was in the tech industry my life would be perfect right now.”). Both of these thought patterns avoid owning or taking responsibility for one’s actual experience, which is not only detrimental to self but it also negatively impacts relationships.

As our world begins to shift out of the pandemic shut-down, take some time to consciously connect with others in healthy ways.