No one predicted the widespread impact COVID-19 has had on day-to-day life — life events were put on hold, vacations postponed, and we’re spending more time at home than we have in decades. But for all of the challenges we experienced in 2020, we also had a few triumphs that gave us hope for the future.
Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved two COVID-19 vaccines, and they’re currently being distributed to people across the country. The vaccine approvals are the light at the end of a long tunnel, point us toward a time when the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us. Normal activities will eventually resume, and we’ll be able to do the things we had to put on pause last year. There’s cause for hope!
Staying hopeful can take a bit of practice, but it is an important component of resilience. It helps put things in perspective – reminding you that tough times don’t last and there are always better days ahead (even if it doesn’t seem like it). Members of the TIME 100, TIME magazine’s community of the world’s most influential people, offered the best advice they’ve received about staying hopeful in the face of adversity. Here’s a sampling:
“When I was 9 years old, my family had just arrived in North Carolina after fleeing Liberia’s civil war. As we rebuilt our lives in America as refugees, my father kept repeating this lesson he learned from West Africa: No condition is permanent. As a teenager, I found it annoying, but three years ago I gave a TED talk about it because it has shaped my worldview. I fundamentally believe that we as human beings are not defined by the conditions we face, no matter how hopeless they seem — we are defined by how we respond to them.”—Dr. Raj Panjabi, co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health
“Listen to your body and take time for yourself. For many of us, the way we speak to ourselves is not the same way we would speak to someone we love and care about. I try to remember this when I feel anxious. When we practice self-compassion, we can then be a better help to others.”—Aly Raisman, Olympic gymnast
“My dear friend’s father once said, ‘Well, Sunday’s gonna come anyway,’ in response to a conversation about worries and stress. I’ve never forgotten it.”—John Krasinski, actor and director
Hope pushes us forward during our toughest challenges, but you can also feel bad when things are hard. It’s OK to not be OK. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, frustration, grief and anger as they come, but don’t let them overcome you. Meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling are great activities to re-center when you feel overwhelmed.
It also helps to focus on what is working. If you’re working from home, maybe you now have more time to do chores around the house you didn’t have before. Perhaps you now have more time to spend with your kids, you feel less pressure to attend social events that didn’t serve you, or you’ve finally nailed that recipe you’d meant to try for months. Focusing on what is working can give you a better sense of control over your life, and it feels good to give yourself some kudos.
Leaning on your social support system and sharing experiences is another way to keep things in perspective and keep hope alive. It helps to remember that everyone has been impacted in some way by COVID-19 — you’re not going through this alone. When you talk to your friends and family, try to focus on the positives. Envision a time in the future when you can gather your loved ones and friends in one room or think about when you’ll get to take that vacation you had to postpone.
One day life will feel normal again, and it can help to remind yourself of this and think about what you’ll do. Believing that things will get better will reframe your thoughts and help you see that this is temporary, even though this has stretched on over a long period of time.
One last piece of advice from the Time 100:
“Someone recently told me, ‘It’s still O.K. to laugh.’ It’s important.”—Preet Bharara, podcast host and former U.S. Attorney
Take life one day at a time and give yourself some grace. It is OK to have bad days and it is OK to have days where you feel so good that COVID-19 is the furthest from thought. Finding times to smile and laugh will keep you going, and it is in those moments that hope flourishes.
MHFA can help you learn strategies to cope with COVID-19’s impact and how to support those around you who may need support. Take an MHFA course this year to learn how you can #BeTheDifference for yourself and those around you as we continue to navigate this unique time.