Lessons from a Pandemic, One Year Later

By: Erin Rose Hennessy

Happy Sunday, everyone! I slept a glorious night’s sleep last night, woke up and decided I wanted pancakes for breakfast. I have not slept that well nor cooked such a big breakfast for myself in a long time. One thing that this pandemic has taught me is that I am in charge of my own happiness.

For too long, I relied on making myself happy by making other people happy. The problem with that is other people don’t always respond in kind. Which is human nature. We all want to make ourselves happy. And what I’ve realized that is by attending to my needs I am actually able to support others better. Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others and all.

So, one thing the pandemic has definitely taught me is to be kinder to myself. Make myself pancakes. Treat myself to chocolate. Don’t be so hard on myself for making mistakes. Hey, I’m a perfectionist. Mistakes are hard for us to make! We want to be perfect. But no one was ever sent to prison or exiled because they spilled some syrup. Not in this day and age anyway.

Another thing I’ve been doing is making sure I keep social connections. It’s hard when one lives alone. It’s even harder to live alone during a pandemic. So my parents and I set aside a time per week to chat on Zoom, or in my mom’s case, on her backyard patio. I make sure I check in and chat with friends and family on social media or oer text.

My mom, sister and I were talking about the things we’ll do differently once the pandemic is “over”. Of course, it won’t be like a “Pandemic Alert Off” button is pushed and it’s over. It’ll be gradual. One thing I’m definitely going to keep doing is washing my hands routinely, including when I arrive home from anywhere. I’ve already been doing it for a year and they say it takes 21 days to make a habit. Might as well keep it.

I was quite ill with the “flu” in December, 2019 and I know exactly how I was exposed. Four days earlier, I went to the movies and then out to dinner and never washed my hands. Open and shut case, really. I should have a) had hand sanitizer before eating at the movie and b) visited the restroom to wash up before eating at the restaurant. Honestly, post pandemic, I would have added “also sanitize at the table before eating.” Nothing like a pandemic, right?

You may be wondering why I put “flu” in quotation marks like that. Because I’m half convinced I had Covid. All the symptoms were there. Shortness of breath lingered for two weeks afterwards. Cough lingered for months. I felt horrible. But because officially the US didn’t get our first case until a month later, I was diagnosed with a “flu like illness.” We may never truly know if it was or was not Covid.

I probably won’t wear a mask quite as much post pandemic, but I do plan to keep some around. As a glasses/hearing aid wearer, masks are a pain to add to “things in/around your ear”. If the covid/flu season is peaked or if I’m sick, it might be nice to protect others at the grocery store. I’ll definitely carry hand sanitizer between October and March.

I know I will also appreciate my family and friends a little more than I did before. More than travel, restaurants, and movies, I am looking forward to seeing family and friends. THREE new cousins have been born and I have yet to meet any of them. The eldest is already a year and a half old. I’m looking forward to seeing family on 4th of July at my aunt’s. I’m looking forward to being able to hug my parents for the first time in over a year. I’m looking forward to being able to babysit for kids I haven’t seen in over a year. Going to friends’ houses for dinner.

The pandemic has also taught me to be much more aware of my current mental health status. So often I would ignore it until I hit crisis mode, but now that everything has slowed down, I can truly be aware of the little signals that things aren’t quite right and take the steps needed to avoid a complete anxiety attack. I’ve been surprised at my resiliency this pandemic, I didn’t expect to do as well as I have. I can do hard things and I didn’t even know it!

Post pandemic, I also want to take steps to further my career. As much as I love working with children and children will always have a special place in my heart, I am exploring options outside of childcare. I’m not sure what my dream job is, but I do know that I am ready for a change. You don’t happen to know anyone looking for a communications, writer, human resource person, do you?

How about you, reader? What do you plan to do differently once the pandemic dust has settled?

Featured Photo Credit: Skip Prichard via Google Search

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