Pandemic Advice That's Really Life Advice

A young woman looking out a partially open window with her hands on the window.
Photo by Elsie Zhong.

One beautiful thing that happened during the pandemic was that everyone suddenly started taking their mental health a little more seriously. The little buffers we built up in our lives that either boosted or helped us ignore our well-being were snuffed out and we were left to stare at our own dang selves. WEIRD. UNCOMFORTABLE.

Cue the avalanche of mental health tips that began circulating around. One such list, that was surprisingly good, came from the City of North Vancouver's Recreation and Culture Department.

There are a few pieces of advice I am trying to carry forward now that life is looking a lot more "normal" where I live.

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth.
Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blow-ups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

This connects to the post I wrote towards the beginning of the pandemic about how it was giving me the perspective to deal with micro-rejections.

When life was all topsy-turvy, it may have been easier and more obvious that everyone was struggling and may not be at their best all the time. Turns out, during regular life, struggles also happen and there are also times when we are not a gleaming and pure embodiment of our best selves. I have a wild notion that maybe people require compassion all the time? Including ourselves?

Help others.
Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.

As the pandemic has morphed into a fight for racial justice, helping others is even more key.

It's easy to feel like the problems are too big and we can't really make a difference, but even small (but concrete) acts of help can go a long way. Not only does it provide the aforementioned sense of agency, but it connects our lives to something and gives us meaning! (Also, it helps other people and I bet they appreciate it.)

Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it.
In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, and group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

I may make my new motto, "when you don't know what to do, organize a closet."

Remind yourself daily that this is temporary.
It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

The pandemic isn't the only thing that's temporary. Everything is temporary. Maybe reminding yourself of the fullness of this fact gets too big and too scary too fast (life is temporary, a life-sustaining climate is temporary), but on a micro-level it can be very comforting. Everything changes.

Whatever your circumstances right now, they will change. Sometimes, you can help move them along. Other times, you enjoy them while they are around. Other times, they are a weight you bear for a time. Yet other times, you both keep changing, but in a way that keeps you together.

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