The Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns have irrevocably altered the way in which society operates, forcing us to make wholesale changes to our way of life. As such, the media, government, and people everywhere (including myself) have for months expounded upon the negative impacts of lockdown and lamented the deprivation of our freedom.

Covid-19 sucks, and this article is in no way trying to suggest otherwise. Yet for all the disruption the Coronavirus has caused, I believe that there are also some lessons to be learned, and benefits to be gleaned from adversity overcome.

So, in the spirit of making the best of a bad situation, it’s high time we explored some of the potential upsides of what has been – pardon my American – an utter dumpster fire of a year.

Self-reflection and getting comfortable with our thoughts

Prior to the pandemic, I rarely had the time or inclination to just be alone and think.

It is all too easy to be sucked into a rat-race culture of work, play and recovery – particularly in London. Your job occupies much of your time, and thanks to the delight of Microsoft Outlook, Slack and work WhatsApp groups, you’re often expected to be online after hours at the beck and call of your clients (or your boss). When you finally do get to close the laptop and mute the WhatsApp chat, the prospect of blowing off steam by downing a few drinks out and about, followed by a recovery session on the couch in front of Netflix, is far more attractive than just going home and thinking about your day.

Over the course of lockdown, the extended periods of being confined to our homes with few means of distraction have forced us to spend more time alone with our thoughts, contend with our emotions, and ask some difficult questions that had previously been buried under the guise of being ‘too busy to think about it right now’. Whilst such a transition can be unpleasant, the benefits of regular self-reflection and mental self-care are undeniable.

For me, self-reflection manifests in the form of a journal. I discovered the power of journaling earlier this year, and regularly setting aside time to spill my thoughts, worries, questions, ideas and goals across the pages has been instrumental in guiding me through the challenges of the pandemic.

Adjusting our expectations and learning the art of patience

In a world of Google search, Amazon next day delivery and uninterrupted streaming, we are hardwired to expect results at a moment’s notice and get things done as soon as possible. Yet despite the fact that Amazon has tripled their profits and Netflix subscriptions have gone through the roof, the Coronavirus has given us a somewhat ironic lesson in patience.

The pandemic has hit pause on our plans and forced us to relinquish the illusion of control we so desperately clung to before we were plunged into lockdown. In such an uncertain and turbulent time, our ambitions, desires and expectations have taken a backseat as we have had to reacquaint ourselves with a different pace of life. It is only now, after a year that has felt longer and more challenging than any other, that I realise how anxious I was to make progress and hit self-imposed milestones, both in my personal and professional life. This abundance of self-judgement and lack of patience was ultimately nothing more than a source of discouragement and negativity, and it is only by being forced to endure the best part of a year in lockdown that I have started to break free from that mindset.

The pandemic has changed my perspective of time, and at 26, I now feel that I have a lot more time than I once thought. Patience really is a virtue, and thanks to the pandemic, I’m a bit more comfortable with playing the long game.

Improving communication and emotional awareness

The first lockdown left some isolated and alone, but many people were forced into close quarters with their partners, families, or housemates. This was the case for me, and as a result the first few weeks of lockdown were fraught with arguments as both myself and my partner struggled to adapt to forced cohabitation and the restrictions placed upon us. Though some of these arguments were sparked by genuine problems, they were often simply fuelled by our frustration and bad moods at the circumstances brought on by lockdown rather than the issue at hand.

Noticing the development of this trend eventually helped me to realise how drastically my mood could affect our conversations, driving me to act more irrationally or be less attentive. Though some couples may have been driven apart amidst the pandemic, those that have survived are likely armed with a greater awareness and control of their emotions, having developed an ability to express themselves more effectively. For me, being able to interact more positively and rationally with my partner, even during times of heightened stress and tension, has helped us to have much more constructive conversations and has undoubtedly brought us closer together.

The pandemic has affected each and every one of us differently, and I can only make these observations based on my own set of experiences in the age of COVID. But, as Albert Einstein once said, ‘in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’. And he was really smart. So, no matter how the Coronavirus has impacted your life, I encourage you, dear reader, to take a little time to consider whether you can derive any positives from the challenges you’ve had to face.

Let’s end the year on a high note!