The idea of “quality of life” once seemed like a self-explanatory concept. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all across the globe, societal changes are in progress. Similarities have begun to surface among many nations, including the changing concept of quality of life. As social distancing orders are gradually lifted, many of us find ourselves eager to venture out. Just as we begin to inquire about available options to fill our days, anxiety about the safety of going out among others may start to rise. There is now an ever-present after-thought that many of us are dealing with; that is, how do we navigate daily endeavors that in previous times of normalcy, would not require a second thought. What happened to the opportunities to just get up and go? Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store or ATM can trigger anxiety at just the thought of touching the screen to complete a transaction. Now add in a line of people standing approximately six feet apart, some with masks, some with gloves, and reality sets in that what once was normal is no longer the case.
Talking to people, a seemingly simple and enjoyable event is now shrouded by concerns of the “breath cloud.” As an introverted person that typically works from home, I hadn’t considered the impact that the lacking social interactions would have on people that are extroverts. To them, much of life may not feel normal without regular human interactions. For example, my husband took my six-year-old daughter and me out to lunch. It was nice eating out for the first time in a while. My six-year-old daughter, who is typically described as a social butterfly and extreme extrovert, kindly says to me, “mommy, I don’t like talking to people anymore except for you and daddy.” When I asked her why, she innocently replied, “because I’m afraid that if I speak to other people, they might have to lean in, and I’m scared I might get COVID-19 if they breathe on me”. What an eye-opening moment for a parent. This child that previously thought that everyone was her friend and would hold a conversation with just about anyone is now apprehensive about speaking with anyone outside of her immediate household. The quick shift that society has made in conjunction with constant media reports have caused fear and confusion by making us feel that not much is safe anymore.
As we attempt to identify new social norms, what effect does this have on our quality of life? Quality of life is the general well-being of individuals and societies, outlining negative and positive features of life. We have inevitably reached a point where we have to consider our sanity and peace of mind. What is the quality of life we desire? How can we make that desire our reality? There will be times that we mourn the loss of once was; we’ll reminisce, and then there will be times that we embrace the newness of what is ahead of us. Let’s choose to anticipate the future with the excitement of new choices, new options, and new challenges. Looking back is sometimes necessary, but if you’re looking back and reflecting on what used to be causes feelings of overwhelming sadness and uncertainty, it may be time to shift your focus. If you begin to feel the gloominess that comes with grieving and focusing on changes that you had no control over, its time to look forward.
Let’s all take this opportunity to change our narrative. Let’s look to the future with eagerness about opportunities we can create for ourselves. For example, instead of being frustrated about being home with your children, embrace the opportunity to have uninterrupted quality time with your loved ones. Let’s take this opportunity to make connections even if they are virtual. Let’s have moments of self-reflection, journaling, exercising, finding out what you like about yourself, or finding out what you want to change about yourself and then put those plans into action. For those of us that may not have the job we once held before the pandemic, let’s take some time to visualize what our futures could be and then create goals to work towards that plan. These goals could include a new career path, learning new hobbies, starting a business, and so much more. One thing in life that I’ve learned is inevitable is change. We can embrace it, or we can sulk about it, but I challenge you to embrace it and know that you are capable of adapting. You have the power and the purpose of determining your quality of life. Some might even say that quality of life is even more important than survival; if you’re surviving, but you’re miserable, you may not feel like you’re living your life at all. As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, I advise you all to do a self-check-in and reevaluate your priorities. And while you’re evaluating your preferences, make sure that you are at the top of that list. You matter, and so does your future. Now, take some time to define what matters to you and set the pace for your new quality of life.
Written by Sharon Doe, MFT Intern