How Covid-19 Has Affected My Life
“This pandemic has magnified every existing inequality in our society – like systemic racism, gender inequality, and poverty.” - Melinda Gates
Mid-March 2020, my eyes were locked on the screen as the French president announced that the country was about to enter a complete lockdown on national television. All the while, in the United Kingdom where I currently live, the Prime Minister seemed to be announcing the complete opposite: that it was better to let the virus come in and contaminate the population until we developed mass-immunity. Although he quickly changed his strategy a week later, following the majority of other country's plans, I definitely didn't wait around for his announcement to self-isolate. I instead decided to follow Italy's, Spain's and France's recommendations, on my own and right away.
Sure, perhaps my decision was a bit premature, considering the virus hadn't spread too much in my area yet. Call me paranoid, but from everything I had heard and seen on TV and social media over the past few days, there were way too many unknown factors about this virus to just blindly trust the UK government's very laid-back guidance. In fact, there was no good reason to do so. And because my toddler and I have rather fragile immune systems, I didn't want to take any chances. In other words, while everyone in my little town was still going out and about seemingly without a worry in the world, I immediately decided to pull my son out of nursery, completely cold turkey. I stock up on groceries for at least a month’s time and prepared ourselves for a long confinement. Initially, I thought things would have blown over by Easter, but boy was I wrong. At the time, the UK was about 2 weeks behind France in terms of the virus spreading through its population. Today, we are approaching the end of April, and we're still stuck indoors. What’s more, the UK government is announcing at least another 3 weeks of strict confinement before we can start seeing positive progress, and that's if everything goes as planned. My guess is we’re somewhere halfway through.
Needless to say, and probably much like the majority of the world population enduring this confinement, staying indoors for such a long time has had a huge impact on every aspect of my everyday routine. Here’s a brief overview of how COVID-19 has affected my life:
First-off, having to put a sudden halt to every single thing my family and I were accustomed to doing, such as working, going to school, moving around with our car or public transportation, enjoying leisure activities outside of our home, traveling, socializing. Just having to completely stop our routine and readapt to a new, totally confined lifestyle. In the beginning, staying confined seemed like something urgent, easy and essential to do in order to avoid contamination and stay safe. In the long run however, not going out and no longer participating in our regular occupational habits has really started to weigh on our minds and bodies.
Health, Nutrition & Exercise
Due to the confinement, obtaining proper care for basic, everyday health issues has become very difficult. Doctors won't accept to consult unless it's an emergency, and even then, important appointements are pushed back, too. This has been very frustrating, to myself and to many others, especially when you need preventive or curative treatments for a pregnancy, a small child, or a persistent illness. As for maintaining healthy nutritional habits during a lockdown, good luck on finding proper produce! Depending on the country or area you live in, acquiring basic products can become pretty difficult, let alone healthy ones. On certain days, I just don't know what to put together anymore for a proper family meal plan. I guess exercise is the only thing I can still do from allowed home in a regular manner, but I find that staying motivated while in isolation can also be a challenge in and of itself.
In my family's case, I should feel lucky that my husband's work is considered essential and that he's still capable of working and getting paid. This is of course, all-the-more helpful in a time of crisis, and I realize that plenty of people are suffering because they can’t work and earn money in these hard times. On the other hand, I'm in a constant state of anxiety, worried about the risk of my husband catching the virus and bringing it home. Although we're taking all necessary precautions and then some, this virus being quite invisible, we live with this continuous underlying paranoia of "what ifs". Essential workers have difficulties staying motivated when they are risking their health and lives while everyone else is safely quarantined indoors. More often than not, they have to work with very limited resources, making their tasks even more complex, delayed and challenging due to all the safety measures in place. Ultimately, I think it's safe to say that whether you’re at home, or still able to work, the pandemic affects everything in your surroundings. And when we're all stocked up at home, all this pressure can be hard to deal with between family members. Increased fear, anxiety, challenges, exhaustion, uncertainty on one hand and decreased income, leisure options, and social interactions on the other... well, you do the math!
I see a lot of videos and articles on how people find ways to make the best of this confinement and I honestly admire that. But, let’s face it. No matter how strong-willed and self-disciplined anyone can be, this confinement is bound to hit hard in some way. We are all going through a huge crisis and the reality of it is that it we’re all experiencing pain, we’re all deprived of many essential things that we need in order to live a sane life. I, for one, wake up in the morning not really knowing how to approach the present day, and even less certain about what’s going to happen in the future.
I don't know about you, but the simple thought of people's deaths being added up and announced like lottery numbers on TV every single day just makes me sick to my stomach. I can't help but think one of those numbers might be someone I know, someone in my family, or who knows, maybe me in a few weeks... Of course, I don't watch the news everyday anymore, but still, it's hard for me to witness such a fast-growing death toll in the world and literally all around me. Certain individuals still insist on suggesting that humanity has faced many worse viruses causing fatalities, but personally, in my time, I’ve never experienced something that affected the world and impacted so many lives on such a widespread scale and in such a short period of time.
I know this pandemic will eventually pass, and things will go back to "normal" with time. Most of us will get through it, and move on with our lives. That said, this pandemic isn't just affecting my life right now, today. It's also putting my vision of the future into perspective. Because after going through the greater half of the negative emotions' spectrum: fear, frustration, anxiety, uncertainty, sadness, and depression, my self-preservation instincts have kicked in and they’re telling me there is light at the end of the tunnel. As always, I choose hope over defeat. And this intense experience we're currently going through helps me realize what is important in life, what really counts.
Making Room for a Better Future
In the end, I’ve decided to use my time to make room for both silence and mindfulness. In confinement, the "what am I going to do when all this is over" trap is rather alluring and easy to fall into. But what about now? Are we bound to being unhappy now? No. And none of us are. I'm choosing to focus on the present moment and trying to be grateful for the positive things: being healthy, being blessed with another pregnancy, being financially stable, being with my family, the majority of my family around the world doing okay, being able to take a walk outside in nature several times a week, feeling comfortable at home, having everything essential to our needs, and so on. More importantly, I’ve realized that this isn’t just an exercise I should be enforcing in difficult times, but always and in general. I need much more mindfulness in my life.
And speaking of the future, I also realized what I truly can’t live without and what is really essential to me. Traveling and discovering, socializing, dancing, swimming, writing, nature and animals are definitely things I just cannot live without. And lastly, there are 3 specific lessons that I've learned and that I definitely want to improve in my life. They are:
BEING more and DOING less,
Prioritizing moments over things,
and living a more simple, down-to-earth and eco-friendly life.
To me, all the rest is just lots of meaningless noise. I think it would be great if each of us came out of this crisis choosing to live a less complicated and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
Sarah The Digital GypSea
United Kingdom, August 2020