COVID-19’s Silver Linings–Positive Things to Come Out of the Coronavirus

Monday July 20, 2020

I would never argue that the novel coronavirus is a good thing. COVID-19 has caused many deaths, a long-lasting global economic slowdown, and rampant general stress and anxiety. But as many an inspirational social media posts have already said: maybe this virus has a silver lining.

We’re all finding new ways to connect with ourselves, our families, and our loved ones.

We’re realizing how important community is.

We’re deepening our sense of gratitude.

We’re realizing that we can do things that seemed impossible and we can make sacrifices for the greater good. Maybe after learning how to come together to fight this virus, we’ll carry that spirit to fights against racism, sexism, inequality, and climate change. Let’s hope!

In the meantime, here’s some good news:

1. Break in routine, time to restructure life
It’s commonly thought that time spent alone provides an opportunity to stop and reflect. With social distancing measures limiting people’s lives, it’s a good time to think about what really matters.
Psychology shows that people are more open to habit changes at times of upheaval, so the COVID-19 lockdown is a good window for making lifestyle changes. Whether it’s pursuing a new career, moving to the countryside or focusing on your family, now’s the time to make that move.

2. We’ve learned the importance of personal hygiene
Not that people weren’t aware of it before, but hygiene isn’t something that is always at the forefront of your mind. When you stop to think about how many people have potentially touched that self-service touch screen or how many people have held that same pole on the bus, it seems obvious that we should all be washing our hands more. Win-win for all. (Were people not using toilet paper before?)

3. Focus on, and appreciation, for our essential workers
Supermarket cashiers, shelf-stackers and delivery drivers are not generally thought of as heroes. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential roles played by key workers whom we all depend on. Nurses and teachers have new-found respect! (Thank you.)

4. Generosity and community-mindedness is spiking.
Individuals are showing what generosity in action looks like, offering to shop for older neighbors, performing wellness checks on loved ones, dropping off care packages and casseroles, and looking out for each other. 

5. Changes in working habits
Many workers have taken their office jobs home with them and are now fulfilling the same role from the safety of their home.
While some jobs cannot be replicated online, some are saving time and money by not travelling. That travel time adds up and can now be spent getting more work done, spending time with their children, or relaxing.

6. We’re leveraging technology to maintain our health and let us keep connecting.
Telehealth appointments are the new norm. Telehealth has many advantages, including keeping patients safe from possible exposure to the virus, improving access to care, cutting health care costs, and contributing toward a greener earth by cutting down on car trips to see doctors in their offices.

Virtual visits, via Zoom, Webex, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, etc. are up! “See” you online.

7. Free stuff!
Virtual concerts, access to online fitness classes, college courses, tours of museums, historic sights, the list goes on.

8. Pollution is down.
Venice canals are finally clear, two months of pollution reduction in China has probably saved 77,000 lives, and New York researchers found a 50% drop in carbon monoxide emissions. For the first time in decades, the air is so clear the Himalayan mountains are now visible. Once we’ve saved ourselves from the virus, let’s keep on saving the planet from ourselves, please? We’re clearly able to do it.

9. The dogs (and cats) of the world are very, very happy.
https://mymodernmet.com/dogs-working-from-home/
Locally, as of April 22, all animals that were available for adoption at the Animal Protection Society of Durham had found placement homes!

10. Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies.
Baking, gardening, painting, reading, running, home improvement, classic movies, you name it, someone’s trying it for the first time or revisiting it.

11. People are sleeping better
Some of us have experienced anxiety and some disruption of sleep, but for others, sleep has improved. Data from Fitbit users in six US cities shows that people are getting an average of 17 minutes more sleep each night during the coronavirus lockdown than they were before the pandemic hit. The health tracking tech company also shows that sleep quality has improved with users getting more REM and Deep Sleep. Also, lack of travel has helped people adjust to consistent circadian rhythms.

12. People are more in touch with friends and family
While many are spending the coronavirus pandemic alone and unable to meet up with anyone in person, others have reported being more in touch with their friends and family than before.

13. Less spending on needless consumer goods
Call me crazy, but I think right now, people will remember what’s really important. Who feels like buying fancy clothes now? Who cares about VIP tickets? When you’re forced to reduce expectations and stop living large, you gain space to reflect. A common conclusion is, “Oh, I never needed this to begin with.”

Suddenly, it’s enough to watch your children play. To read a book or talk to a friend on the phone. If you can’t fill your spare time with distractions, the only alternative is to spend it on what’s meaningful. What have I missed?

What is keeping you happy, healthy, and sane during these trying times? Email me!
Susan Chesser, MPH, BSN, RN
Health Educator, UNC Wellness Centers, Susan.chesser@unchealth.unc.edu