In Part 1 of this series, Dr. Kurland and Commander Sears shared three habits they believe will help us build momentum as we – hopefully – move towards the end of quarantine and back to life as we knew it. By focusing on the present, embracing the positive, and leveraging our relationships and routines, we’ll be better equipped to manage short-term stress and start progressing towards big picture goals.
Part 2: Growth Through Adversity
Utilizing those habits could also help us to readily absorb the most meaningful lessons from the quarantine experience. Here are four ways to continue learning and growing to make our communities, jobs, and lives better after Covid-19.
1. Appreciate the small things
“One of the things I’m hearing from a lot of people is there’s a greater appreciation for things that they may have taken for granted,” says Dr. Kurland. “Appreciating family, appreciating acts of kindness and noticing those things more. I think another thing is just a slowing down of lifestyle, being home more, and more time spent with family members.”
If you can relate to what Dr. Kurland is reporting, you’ve probably started to think about how to take some of the grind out of your days once the country reopens. As many companies consider more permanent working from home arrangements, you might still get to enjoy those extra daily meals with your kids. You might keep up the weekly video chats that have brought you closer to your extended family. And you might make those simple moments of quiet that allow you to think, de-stress, and reflect a permanent part of your daily routine.
2. Valuing social bonds
Zoom, Slack, and social media have helped bridge the gaps between us, our friends, and colleagues. But they’ve also reminded us of all the things virtual communication can’t replicate.
“You rely on other people more than you think,” says Commander Sears. “You bounce ideas off them, you receive feedback from them. Social media is an illusion of social interaction that allows people to hide behind a barrier. About 90% of communication is nonverbal. When you’re with other people, you’re picking up different cues. Those are giving you approval or disapproval. They’re giving you a sense of belonging to a group. I think people miss that and are realizing how important it is.”
It’s likely workspaces and recreational facilities are going to look very different after quarantine. But considering how much we’ve been able to accomplish virtually, sharing physical space with co-workers, friends, and family again could give our productivity a big boost.
3. Finding your limits and growing your empathy
Although the pandemic has been defined, in large part, by the things we can’t do, we’ve all learned a lot about what we can do as well. From big accomplishments like managing a revised household budget to little joys like learning to bake or play an instrument, we’ve adapted to these challenging circumstances and, in many cases, found ways to thrive.
But even though we experienced the pandemic together, you probably noticed people were processing quarantine in very different ways. As we’ve bumped up against and often surpassed our own limits, we’ve gained a better understanding of how others are coping.
“Through my experience in the SEAL teams, I learned there is no absolute volume that people can take of stress,” says Commander Sears. “Everybody has their own-sized cup that they can take. It helps you develop empathy towards others. What doesn’t stress me out at all may not have the exact same relative impact to somebody else. That doesn’t mean they’re experiencing something different than me, it means that their cup can only handle so much. Encouraging empathy and not expecting the mirror imaging of what you can take is something that I’ve really learned. Remember everybody has their own capacity, neither good nor bad, for taking stress in and dealing with it.”
Adds Dr. Kurland, “I think there’s an opportunity for each of us to really look at, in what way can we contribute? Who’s one person I can serve or reach out to or help or support? And not undervalue the impact for both people. We know from the research that, when we help others, it also feeds back in a positive direction to us. But also that being the recipient of even one person reaching out to you can make a huge difference in one’s well-being.”
4. Improving your Return on Life
The Covid-19 pandemic will be a “before and after” moment for this generation, not unlike 9/11 or the Great Depression. Our government leaders and health care experts will have a challenging time determining the safest ways for us to get back to living and working in public.
But privately, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make some major changes in our lives as well.
Commander Sears says, “Some of my colleagues in the military and on Wall Street, they had a chance to get off the hamster wheel, and so now they’re telling me, ‘Holy cow, what was I doing? All this busy work was overwhelming my life. I wasn’t taking part in life or enjoying it. I was just running after the cheese nonstop.’ Now that they’ve had a chance to get off the wheel a lot of people are reevaluating some of the priorities in their life, and I think it’s for the better.”
Dr. Kurland agrees. “I think that there is an opportunity to really evaluate and think about how to take this as an opportunity,” she says. “To ask ourselves, ‘How do I want my life to look as I move forward? What is it that I most value? What are the things that are really important to me?’”
As we all transition through this challenging time, remember that we’re here to help you answer those questions and work with you on a plan for a greater Return on Life.
We understand transitioning back to living and working outside of your home is going to present its own set of challenges. We hope the expert strategies discussed here will help you approach those challenges from a more positive place.