“Just because someone carries it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.” – Christin Lewis
This past year has been hard, and we are still living through, and feeling the effects of, COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has personally affected many, if not most of us, whether through changes to our employment or the loss of a loved one. While the effects of COVID-19 have been life-changing, it has offered us a hidden opportunity to learn from, and better understand, those who have served our country.
We can learn from our Service members and Veterans because they have historically adapted to overcoming challenging, devastating, and life-changing events. My hope is that we can learn from their experiences, life mottos, and attitudes so that we too can move forward in adaptive ways. But before we get to some adaptive lifestyle choices amid a pandemic, let us first understand how the pandemic has reminded some of our Service members and Veterans of their time serving our country.
I recently read an opinion piece written by a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee who personally interviewed Veterans during this pandemic. Her piece serves as an important reminder that Veterans may be experiencing even more challenges due to past wartime events; however, they have much to teach us. From this article, one Veteran recounted that this pandemic reminded him of his time serving in Vietnam where there was, “…constant invisible threat[s] and feeling on edge.” And another Veteran shared the relevance of the motto, “adapt and overcome” during wartime and now. Both of these quotes encompass feelings that we as civilians can currently relate.
While we are still navigating through this pandemic, I hope you choose to continue to adapt and overcome. To help battle against this invisible threat, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to aid us in feeling less on edge. These suggestions are not all-encompassing but are meant to be a starting point for us to remain positive and hopeful as we continue to move forward.
- Remain positive. It can be easy for fear, anxiety, and frustration to prevail, but keeping an upbeat, positive attitude can contribute to the happiness and health of your family. Although it is difficult to stay positive all the time, adapting to the challenges in front of us and maintaining more positive interactions and attitudes can be beneficial for your family and mental health.
- Have open, honest discussions. Set aside time to talk with children or family members about the pandemic (at an age appropriate level), and how your family is planning to overcome it. This might mean creating new house rules, such as more structured schedules to accommodate working from home and schooling from home. It also might mean setting time aside especially for family members to express their feelings (e.g., sadness that school is over and they miss their friends, happiness to be home and safe, fear because they do not understand what's happening).
- Plan safe activities. Consider family activities outside such as going for walks at the park, having a family picnic, picking wild f lowers, hiking or bike riding, or even just going for a drive. Each of these activities might be a simple, nice change of scenery for your family.
- Set up virtual hangouts with friends and family. While being on the computer or even a video call might not be the most fun way to see friends, it is better than nothing! There are many fun, interactive games that friends and families can play together online such as 20 Questions, Scattergories, or Bingo! This might be a nice way to connect with extended family that might not be seen on a regular basis.
- Try something new. Maybe you or a family member have always wanted to try a new activity or learn a new skill, and this might be the time! Experimenting with the guitar, juggling, yoga, meditation/ mindfulness, or even gardening might be worth trying. Although it can be hard to say “yes” to some of the more messy/intricate ideas your family members have, it might be worth exploring some to get everyone’s mind off of the pandemic. Plus, it might bring some smiles and laughter into the house! If you don’t want to commit to spending much money on any new hobbies too soon, check out your local “Buy Nothing” groups on social media to see if you can find free equipment/supplies.
This pandemic has affected each of us in unique ways. Hold onto the hope that you and your family will adapt and overcome the challenges you have faced due to the pandemic. And let's also hope that the negative adaptations we have had to make, like virtual learning, wearing face masks, and maintaining social distancing, will soon end.