2. Reducing stress is good for everyone
There have been a lot of things to stress out about during this pandemic, for sure. The risk of losing our jobs, becoming sick, or inadvertently infecting a beloved relative is frightening. Having to quarantine at home has kept us from employing our usual ways of coping with stress—like going out with friends or exercising at the gym. And being fed a constant diet of dire and alarmist news has amplified our anxiety and sense of helplessness, making us lose sleep.
Being in a constant state of high alert is not good for our minds or bodies—or for those around us, either. Emotional contagion is real, which means feeding our own stress and fear affects others, too. That’s become even clearer as so many of us find ourselves in closer quarters with family members or roommates whose moods feed off of each other.
However, one silver lining of staying at home is that it’s forced many of us to slow down some and find new ways to manage stress and anxiety. Perhaps you’ve finally learned to meditate—something you’d heard was good for you but never really attempted.
Or maybe you’ve pulled out a notebook and journaled about your experience or taken a happiness course online. Some have turned to drawing, planting a garden, or playing a musical instrument. All of these have the potential to improve your mental health and could be worth holding on to once lockdown ends and you are set free again.
Then there’s the one stress-buster that beats them all: Being kind to others and helping those in need. Ask anyone who’s volunteered at a local food bank, brought a meal to a stuck-at-home neighbor, reached out to a lonely friend, tutored students online, or organized their neighborhood relief group, and they’ll tell you: Focusing your attention on others reduces your own worry and stress—a lesson easily carried forward into the new era. Not only will helping others keep us sane, but it will also aid in the recovery of everyone impacted by the pandemic.
3. Showing gratitude matters
It’s pretty obvious that we should be grateful to the “essential workers” during this time of shelter in place. Food suppliers, health care workers, delivery people, and first responders have taken on risks to themselves for the benefit of everyone else. Gratitude is one of the very important lessons to remember for everyone.
How can we possibly repay them? By showing a little gratitude and paying the kindness forward.
Before the pandemic, most of us probably didn’t think twice about the workers doing these jobs. Now that they are on everyone’s radar, it’s been heartwarming to see grateful citizens showing their appreciation openly by making signs, clapping or howling out their windows at night, dropping off free meals, and over-tipping service workers. Even just saying “thank you” can go a long way toward building good will.
Gratitude isn’t something we should just show to these current heroes in our midst, though.
We can show more gratitude for all of the people and things that make our life easier and happier. Showing gratitude not only feels good, it encourages more kindness and generosity in both gratitude recipients and anyone who witnesses the expression of gratitude, creating a virtuous cycle. And, since sincere gratitude is a premier social glue in both personal relationships and society at large, offering it helps build a kinder, more compassionate society—something we should all keep in mind even when lockdown ends.