This is how the pandemic has improved my mental health

When the world collectively came to a standstill in March 2020, it became a pivotal moment for me; I was forced to pause, take stock, and recalibrate. The pandemic, for all its calamity, discord and devastation, also served as a revelation and gave me valuable insight into the hurried and distracted pace of our lives. Dealing with these crises has given me a whole new outlook, one that I will continue to use long after the pandemic is over.

Going through all the turmoil and uncertainty gave me clarity and shed light on what really matters; it became clear that health and safety take precedence over everything else. I had more pressing issues to worry about — my husband on the front lines and remote schooling my three young children — so I could no longer muster the energy to worry about trivial things, and it was completely refreshing. The size of your pants, your kid getting some extra screen time, the dog’s muddy paw prints — none of that is worth stressing about, as I previously believed. The shift in priorities and mentality was restorative.

Being in quarantine also forced me to consider my Type A tendencies. I’m a planner to the core, and I thrive on routine and a strict schedule. I had to let go of some of the control I held so dear and was forced to live from day to day, never knowing what tomorrow would bring. The change of pace was a boon to my emotional state. Without our hectic schedule that kept us frantic, my endless to-do list died out and the demands of juggling work, activities, and school diminished.

Our days lacked structure, so I eventually surrendered to the chaos and became a version of the laid-back mom I’d always dreamed of. Extensive forts were built, popsicles replaced carrots for snacks, and bedtimes were relaxed. There were always three boys running wild; sometimes they wore pants and sometimes they didn’t. I hate to brag, but I even had a spa day where toddlers, ahem, rubbed mystery potions (apple sauce and ranch dressing?) all over my hair and used a dinosaur to (I use the term loosely) massage my face .

Previously, a jam-packed calendar was a feature of our family’s life, and I was beginning to hate it. I assumed that our busy schedule and extensive extracurricular activities would always be there, because they had always been there. In their absence, I began to miss them and the connections they brought so much. It was only after they were removed that I really understood and appreciated the value of the community and the community we had with our multitude of sports, school, social and family activities.

It took those things that were taken from me to make me realize how much my life has been enriched by spending time with others, both those to whom I am related and the companions I have chosen. These days, cheering my son’s team in the stands with the other families, getting together with neighbors at a block party, or attending a graduation seem like real privileges that I won’t take for granted anymore. I am immensely and eternally grateful to be able to share this wild and wonderful life with such wonderful friends and family.

I used to feel an unspoken sense of competition with humanity in general. I was always focused on what everyone else was doing and worried that I wasn’t doing so well. During the pandemic, everyone was in the same proverbial boat, which gave me more of a we-are-all-in-this-together mentality. I began to see my fellow human beings as comrades rather than competitors in the rat race of who lives their best lives.

The pandemic has changed us all, for better or for worse. Nearly three years later, as the COVID-19 spikes continue to rise and fall and life as we knew it slowly turns into an unfamiliar version of “normal,” I’ll try to find ways to stay easier and clearer about what really matters. is and to remember and hold those lessons, I was lucky enough to learn during the shutdowns.

Now when I start to feel overwhelmed and cranky about the stressors of the daily grind and the irritating things that come with life or being one’s parent, all I have to do is remember when none of it was possible, and it brings me immediately in a place of recognition and gratitude. Suddenly brushing my teeth or waiting in line for school pick up no longer feels like such a burden.

It wasn’t until I was forced to slow down and be still and quiet that the universe taught me how to persevere through this unique season of life and beyond. It turns out that this new empowering, unhurried mindset of gratitude was always there, slumbering, waiting for me to discover the intoxicating freedom it possessed; it just took a global pandemic to trigger it. And now that I’ve got it, I certainly won’t let it down now.

Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mediocre chef. Twitter: @Xtina_Crawford. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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