The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost everyone, whether directly, through the loss of loved ones, or the impact on job security. Business has slowed down in many sectors and has been put to a standstill. It became clear that things we thought were imperative to our lives and functionality as human beings were “non-essential,” and we have somehow managed to survive without them for this long.
As of Nov. 24, there have been more than 12.4 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. alone and 59.5 million cases worldwide, and more than 258,000 deaths in the U.S. and more than 1.4 million deaths worldwide.
I have cared for many patients who have had the virus who have done well, as well as those who did not make it. I have patients who are back to living a “new normal” life and those who are suffering the still fully unknown consequences of the disease.
The purpose of my writing this is not to focus on the negativity it has caused us, although the impact has been very real. It is to focus on the growth we have experienced as humans and our resilience in dark times.
During the pandemic, I took care of primary care patients in the clinic and patients in the hospital setting. I have seen two different sides of the effects of COVID-19.
I help evaluate and treat everyone’s mental health, trying to adjust to such drastic life changes, the struggles of patients’ losing their jobs, and losing a sense of independence and freedom.
I work inpatient and see the disease’s isolating nature and try my best to make sure patients get home back to their loved ones. I try to cheer them up when they seemingly feel alone fighting through this illness.
During the pandemic, I have been trying to focus on whatever positivity I can find. When we were all young, we didn’t have many luxuries of adulthood, so what did we do for entertainment when we were younger? I never recall really being bored as a child, and it is a common phrase I hear from everyone during the pandemic: Make a list of things you did as a child for fun and try them now, within reason. Ride a bike, draw a picture, build a blanket fort, play board games, look up cartoons you used to enjoy, talk to people.
These are all things I used to do regularly as a child, and they never failed to give me a good time. Go down the list, learn to appreciate the simpler things.
The biggest thing I have taken from the pandemic is appreciation. I appreciate my health. I appreciate my home, my family, my job. I have been fortunate to keep my job through this, and although I am at the front lines at times, which can be scary, I am thankful.
My neighborhood is a great place for walks, but I may have gone on a walk twice in two years. During the pandemic, I have gone on more walks than I can count. I have met neighbors I hadn’t met before; I learned that my neighbor has pet chickens. I go on bike rides and have learned to appreciate the hills that cause me to lose my breath. I started growing a vegetable garden, giving me a new appreciation for spaghetti squash, a “farm to table” experience. I have found myself sipping on coffee, watching deer, and other creatures in my yard.
I have tried to develop new skills and hobbies such as painting, and I have created some paintings that I have become quite proud of. I bought a telescope, where I often look into the night sky and simply admire the beauty, stillness, and uncertainty I am staring at through this magnificent lens.
Unfortunately, I am sure I would not have made the time to do these things if not for the current situation. It has brought a sense of appreciation. As the holidays approach, I know I cannot see my family. I call my family and video chat regularly, I savor every conversation and every smile, and I look forward to seeing everyone one day when things are safer. I appreciate the beauty and warmth of a simple hug.
One of the biggest things we may take for granted is health. Exercise equipment is in high demand and almost impossible to find. I had to change strategies completely from what I was doing for my entire life. No more competitive sports leagues, and I could not go to the gym, where I had met so many wonderful people who motivated me to exercise.
I learned not only to appreciate these things, but also to adapt. I learned what self-discipline truly means, and I am still trying to work on it nine months in while I try to shed those dreaded “pandemic pounds.”
The pandemic has been difficult, but it has managed to change my perspective for the better. I mourn for the suffering and loss we have experienced as humanity, and moving forward, I have a new sense of appreciation.
I am hopeful for the future, and I know we are in this together. We should try to focus on appreciation, resilience, adaptability, and self-discipline. This is the most difficult time to do it as it seemingly has been forced upon us, but if we do not try it now, then when?
As you read this, I want to know how the pandemic affected you directly. What have you improved upon, what have you grown to appreciate even more?
I think we can all learn from each other, and if we focus on our resilience and some positivity, it may be a little easier to move forward and focus on hope for our future.
Jasmine Toor, MD, is an internal medicine physician.
This post appeared on KevinMD.