Did the COVID-19 pandemic do anything positive for mental health? Megan Potts explores the breakthroughs she had during a globally difficult time.
The COVID-19 crisis impacted each and every one of us. As the world returns to "normal," many are still trying to cope with the pandemic's physical and emotional impact on us.
However, it’s possible to reflect on some lessons we may have learned from the experience without skewing the pandemic as “positive.”
Megan Potts explores her mental health breakthroughs during a globally difficult time. Managing anxiety and depression, she explains how she still employs these “mental health life lessons” to this day.
When COVID-19 hit global news in 2020, we had no idea of all the ways the virus would affect us.
Even those lucky enough to have never caught it faced some serious challenges. Family and friends may have struggled with ill health or worse. Weddings and funerals were cancelled. Jobs were lost or made harder by children at home and needing to be home- schooled. Millions were forced to self-isolate for months, some very much alone.
Meanwhile, essential workers had to deal with the panicked masses on the front lines and weren't financially thanked for it.
After the pandemic, many people struggled to re-adjust to snapped-back expectations. Returning to the office was challenging. New and worsened mental health issues were pushed to the back burner as the world demanded that we return to the "go, go, go!" rat race of modern society.
Some people who suffered massive losses didn’t have the chance to address their grief before being expected to move on.
There was nothing positive about the pandemic. But the lessons we take from it could be.
I'll never say that the pandemic brought "good things," as that trivialises other people's pain. It was a crisis that brought about a great deal of tragedy for millions.
But even in the worst situations, it’s possible to learn from our experiences– as a group or individually. While the lessons I learned weren’t born from anything good, they have stuck with me and made me wiser.
I still think about and use these lessons every day. And in this article, I want to share them with you.
4 lessons I learned during the COVID crisis and will keep forever
1.It is okay to say “no”
Pre-COVID, I was terrified of saying no to many things. I didn't want to look lazy, unpleasant, or rude (or any other negative descriptions mainly directed at “noncompliant” women).
But, during the UK lockdowns, I, and many of my friends, still had a worrying amount of people asking to go for walks or “just pop over.”
I soon learned that saying no doesn’t automatically turn everyone against you. I explained that while I loved the person asking and missed their company, I did not want to risk catching or spreading the virus. For many, that was enough.
Although the UK is no longer in crisis mode, I've made saying no a self-empowering habit. Not to everything, of course!
Sometimes, I may not have the mental or physical energy to do something. It's not that the person asking isn't a priority – most of them mean a lot to me. But if saying yes means neglecting my health and well-being, I cannot give anyone the proper care and attention they deserve.
Remember: you are always allowed to prioritise your health, be it physical or mental.
And that goes both ways! If a friend says no to something, it's okay to be hurt or disappointed. Punishing or making them feel awful about it is NOT okay. Ultimately, we should all make an effort to be more accepting of each other’s needs – even if they clash with our own.
2.Everyone has value
Another important lesson I learned is that every single person holds value.
There isn’t a single exception to this statement. People working in oft-unappreciated jobs were suddenly considered essential during COVID-19. Did they get the rewards they deserved? For many of them, no. In fact, The Powers That Be have snapped back to their old “you’re too replaceable” attitude.
I won’t do that. Everyone deserves kindness and respect. Those who did so much for us during COVID are, and always will be, heroes.
If you know any retail workers, teachers, nurses, etc., who are still struggling, offer them a friendly ear when you have the capacity. For some of these workers, the stress never ended – it just continued or got even bigger.
3.The importance of empathy and kindness
Now more than ever, we must remember the importance of being kind. When we’re all in something together, it’s easy to empathise with others. After all, we’re going through the same!
But a genuinely kind person will empathise with others even if their troubles are unfamiliar. That doesn't mean saying, "I know how you feel," when you don't. Empathy is listening, trying to understand, and being there for that person when you can be.
It can be tempting to offer “solutions” when we hear about someone’s distress. Be kind, and don't offer unsolicited advice. You'll only get angry if they don't take it, and the other person will feel pressured into taking a specific action. Save your suggestions for when your friend or loved one asks (if they do).
In the meantime, listen, practice empathy, and ask the other person what you can do to help.
4.Never neglect self-care
Lastly, and most importantly, we must remember the importance of self-care.
That could be making time to work on a hobby or watching your favourite TV show at the end of the day.
Whatever self-care looks like for you right now, I hope you’ve carried it beyond the lockdown. Your world doesn’t have to be turned upside down to treat yourself nicely!
I learned a lot during the COVID-19 lockdown period; they are not lessons I want to forget. All of the above tips should be considered evergreen.
We've gotten good at being kind to ourselves and others in a collective crisis. Now, let's nurture those skills in "normal" life, too.
We’d ALL be happier if we treated kindness like gifts – a joy to give and receive.
NPS-IE-NP-00554 November 2022