Finding the Silver Lining of a Pandemic–Coming out Healthier on the Other Side

Written by Becky Flora-Waterman, FNP-C, MSN, BSed

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly affected all of us in one way or another. It is fair to say that no one will come through this unscathed. How can we assure that when it is over, we are just as healthy or even healthier than we were when it started? How can we guard against deterioration in our health as we struggle through it? What good can we find in the madness and chaos?

Following are some ideas for making the most of these trying and uncertain times. You will notice that there are suggestions for maintaining mental, spiritual, and physical health because they are all intricately linked. You cannot truly be physically well if you are also not spiritually and mentally well.

Control what you can. Let the rest go. This is key to preserving your mental health and therefore your physical health. While there are some things about the pandemic that we can control, like sheltering in place and washing our hands often, we certainly cannot control what others choose to do or how they respond. Recognizing what you personally can take responsibility for and making decisions based on this realization is the beginning of being able to let the frustrations go that come as a result of feeling out of control. As a self-proclaimed “control freak” I struggle with this daily and often remind myself out loud: “Focus on the things you can control. Let the rest go.” It may help to make a list of the things that worry you or frustrate you and put them into two categories: those I can control and those I cannot. Then focus on the cans. Daily prayer will be helpful as well as you hand over to God what you know He only can fix.

Reclaim the things lost. This is an optimal time to discover the things we have neglected or forgotten because of the normal hurry-scurry of our everyday lives. This may include tangible things like finding the time to do that project we have had to put off for so long. You might clean out a closet that is bursting at the seams and donate to a clothes closet where your generosity and hard work will be much appreciated. Reorganize the basement or garage so that it is more than a dumping ground for whatever you have not had time to find a place for in times past. Try a different paint color. Rearrange the furniture. Plant some flowers.

This gift of more time is also the perfect opportunity to renew relationships. Just because we share a roof does not mean that our family connections are as healthy as they should be. Make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less, play more, plan more, and just be…together. Reinstate family game night or family movie night. Go for a walk as a family or as a couple. Prepare a healthy meal together. Plan the next family outing or vacation. You do not want to look back after the pandemic is over and realize that you missed golden opportunities to reconnect with those you love the most. Think of the memories that you can make right at this very odd time in your life!

While you are finishing up that long-awaited project around the house or learning to make the most of time with your loved ones, do not forget to attend to your own lost things. Read more books. Get into God’s Word more. Take more baths. Start a new hobby. Sit outside in the sun for a while to soak up some Vitamin D. Take an online course and stretch your mind.

Exercise. We often give time as the reason why we do not get more physical activity. Right now, a lot of us have way more time than we will have when things return to “normal”. This is the time when we should be making the most of the opportunity to move! The gyms are closed but there are still plenty of places to walk, even if that is just around your neighborhood. The city parks are also still open for the most part. Bays Mountain in Kingsport has remained open throughout, and it is a great place to walk, run, or hike. You can even do exercise right in your living room if the weather is bad as there are a wide variety of exercise videos available online. Moving more during shelter in place will keep you from gaining extra pounds that might be put on due to stress eating. Getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine is crucial to a healthy immune system and does wonders for your mood. Habits that you put into place now when you have less barriers to do so are more likely to remain even when you get busy again because you will see the benefits and want to find ways to continue what you started.

Look up! When things are great, it is human nature to think we do not need God. Times like this often cause us to return to God for hope, peace, and answers. Sometimes we realize that the answers are not as important as simply knowing that we are not alone and that someone is walking alongside us. Attend a church service online. Get back into your copy of scripture. Listen to praise music. Meditate on the things of God. Pray. Start a prayer journal where you record prayers requests and answers to prayer as this will allow you to see God’s hand in everything. Remember, that without spiritual wellness you cannot be physically or mentally well.

Get rid of the health goblins. This is a good time to look at those things in your life that are robbing you of optimal health. These might include diets full of fast food or processed foods, drinking too little water, not exercising enough, smoking, vaping, using tobacco in other ways, drinking too much alcohol, stress eating. Take inventory of your current health and where you want to be when this over or in 5 years, 10 years, etc. Do you feel well most of the time or do you feel unwell most of the time? What basic health screenings and care have you neglected? You may be due for a yearly physical with your doctor. It may have been a long time since you had routine lab work done. How long has it been since your teeth were cleaned? Is that mammogram and colonoscopy up to date? This is an optimal time to see where you stand on your health journey and plan to get back on track completely when the pandemic is over.

Pass it on. Times like this can cause many of us to fall into the traps of self-pity, loneliness, boredom, unsettledness, and frustration. One surefire remedy for introspection is to turn your eyes to something or someone else. Be salt and light to the world. Be someone’s ray of hope. Look around. It should not take you long to see where you might be a blessing to others. Can you pick up some groceries for a neighbor? Can you pick up an elderly friend’s prescriptions? Try making a double recipe for dinner and share with another family by leaving it on their porch. Consider sending a card to someone who lives alone to let them know they are not forgotten. When you see the blessing that you can be to someone else, you will take your mind off your own troubles at least for a little while.

With some planning and a new way of looking at things, it is possible to make even the worst of times, such as a pandemic, a positive time of renewal and growth in every area of your life. Our hope at Integrated Health Concepts is that when it is all over, you can see the good things that came out of it in every aspect of your life and the lives of those you love.