With more vaccinations being given and more states opening up, it might be tempting to act as though the pandemic never happened by reverting to the “old normal.” But that would mean ignoring the many lessons we’ve learned — lessons that can apply to a post-pandemic world as easily as they have during the COVID crisis, and might help us make it an even better world than the one we left behind.
Here are just a few of the truths we can apply to life beyond the pandemic, for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.
Prepare for Hardship
Hiding your head in the sand doesn’t work. Early, rosy predictions that the virus would fizzle out before it hit the United States or shortly thereafter didn’t pan out. In fact, exactly the opposite happened: The nation wound up with the highest number of infections and the most deaths of any in the world. Furthermore, the economy took a major hit, and individuals struggled to make ends meet.
The moral of the story: Avoiding potential catastrophe requires action. It’s fine to hope for the best, but you also have to prepare for the worst. What we do as a society depends on all of us, but we can take steps individually to prepare for crises and periods of transition in our own lives, especially financially. That means doing things like:
- Making sure your insurance (like a face mask) covers everything you’ll likely need it to.
- Making a budget and avoiding bad spending habits.
- Taking advantage of COVID programs, like the CARES Act, to map out a plan to eliminate your debt.
- Building credit so you can call on it when you need it, without paying exorbitant interest rates.
- Planning for retirement, and making sure you’ll have enough to make ends meet.
- Tackling disability planning, including healthcare directives and powers of attorney.
- Facing estate planning, from creating a will to appointing an executor and making funeral arrangements.
We had a lot of time to think this past year, while we weren’t able to do much of anything else. Now, we can turn those thoughts into meaningful plans. Where do you want to be in a year? Five years? When you retire?
Create a list of short-, medium-, and long-term goals, then keep track of them so you can check them off as you achieve them. You might include professional goals, like working toward a promotion, doing cross-training, learning another skill, or starting a whole new career. Or maybe your goals are more personal, like getting in better shape, eating healthier, quitting a bad habit, or decreasing your stress levels.
Whether your goals are broad or highly specific, ask yourself what it will take to get there. Figure it out, and go for it. Then monitor your progress, and don’t throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity or momentary setback. Forge ahead knowing that any goal worth striving for is worth persevering to achieve.
Before the pandemic hit, many of us were becoming increasingly isolated in our cyber-worlds, interacting more and more online via social media, text messages, and emails.
But then, the pandemic hit and we didn’t have many other options except to communicate online. That’s when we took another look at the pros and cons of social media, and realized how confining those cyber-worlds could be.
Suddenly, we missed getting together for neighborhood barbecues, hopping in the van with friends for a trip to the beach or a ride to a concert, or just hanging out at a friend’s house for movie night or a game of cards. Our computers kept us connected during the pandemic, but those connections were no substitute for “IRL” interactions.
As more of the country starts to reopen, we’re eager to restore our frayed personal networks. One lesson the pandemic taught us is how important they are, even in a 21st-century world of online connectivity.
COVID robbed us of some opportunities we might have taken for granted, like going to the gym for a workout or attending a yoga class. Suddenly, we had to improvise — and we did.
We learned we didn’t have to pay a monthly fee to stay fit. We could buy some reasonably priced exercise equipment and stay fit at home, or ditch the extra cost altogether and go for a jog on an empty street, a hike on an isolated trail, or a bike ride through the park. We could stretch and meditate at home. Instead of going out and partying, we could curl up with a good book.
Moving forward, we can continue to employ the new ways we’ve created to stay physically and mentally fit. We may go back to the gym or to yoga class, but we have endless options, many we hadn’t considered before — even though they were under our noses all along.
When you think about it, the pandemic has taught us a great many lessons. You’ve undoubtedly learned some yourself that weren’t mentioned here. The key is to remember them heading forward and implement them as we face the new challenges that will doubtlessly arrive after COVID is no longer a global threat.