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  • Matt McCoy

5 Unexpected Positive Effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

As a mental health clinician I spend a lot of time listening to people. I listen to people talk about their stories, their fears, their triumphs, and their vulnerabilities. Lately COVID-19 has been a central topic of conversation. While I hear many people express their valid feelings of anxiety, frustration, and fatigue, I also hear remarkable stories of strength, resiliency, and compassion. Lately I have begun to reflect on the positive effects that have emerged as a result of the pandemic and common themes that seem to be developing amongst my clients, my friends, and my family.

1. People are connecting more often.

Ironically, being forced into isolation has given people the motivation and time to reach out more often. I have noticed a significant uptick in people connecting with family and friends whom they might not have been connecting with before. I've heard of friends spending more time on the phone, brothers playing video games online who live an ocean apart, and parents slowing down and spending more time with their children. People are especially concerned and checking in with their older relatives and ensuring those most vulnerable, and possibly most isolated, are staying connected.

2. People have a clearer sense of what they really value rather than what they “should” be doing.

For many, the pandemic has highlighted what is truly important in our lives. Since our ability to meet up with others has been taken away, the significance of our relationships has come into focus. It has become clearer to many that spending quality time with loved ones is more important than checking items off of the to-do list or "staying busy". Chronic busy-ness no longer feels manageable or necessary.

As people have more time on their hands, many folks are slowing down and engaging in nurturing activities at home, such as baking and gardening. People seem to be taking more time to cook their meals and are wasting less food. This time has served as a great reminder that there is tremendous value in slowing down and enjoying the small things that make us human.

3. People are helping each other.

The degree of kindness and caring I have witnessed since the beginning of the pandemic is remarkable. Mutual aid groups have cropped up in most cities, connecting vulnerable individuals with people who are able to do their grocery shopping or pick up their medications. There has been a renewed focus on protecting and caring for our senior population - a group that already experiences a high level of isolation. People are offering free housing to healthcare workers, businesses that are taking enormous losses are continuing to offer free services to those in need, and signs have popped up around town thanking essential service workers. It is heartening to see so many people in our communities practicing kindness during such a difficult time.

4. People are being innovative.

Being in lockdown has challenged people to get creative and flex their problem-solving skills. University students, technology companies, and designers are learning how to make personal protective equipment with what they have. Businesses are adjusting to accommodate social distancing measures and many are offering their services remotely.

People are also coming up with new and creative ways of staying connected with each other - like playing music together virtually, having family reunions on Zoom, doing “drive-by parades” instead of birthday parties, or walking by grandma’s house to wave at her through the window.

5. People are practicing gratitude.

As society come to an unexpected halt, governments have had to determine which services are essential and who is an essential worker. Suddenly our grocery store clerks, pharmacists, truck drivers, farmers, postal workers, and bank tellers have become every day heroes. Folks have a newfound appreciation for those who continue to work and recognize the importance of all jobs. Of course, there is also an enormous sense of gratitude for our healthcare workers, which can be heard every night at 7 PM by people cheering for them from their windows.

I think it is important for us to ask ourselves, What will I do when this is all over? Will I go back to my "normal" routine? What does "normal" look like? Is it sustainable? Is it enjoyable? My hope is that we will be able to incorporate some of the unexpected lessons gifted to us by COVID-19 into our daily lives. Perhaps we can move forward with the knowledge that slowing down can feel good, our relationships are indispensable, and kindness is everything.

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