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My A to Z Lessons for Surviving in Times of COVID-19

The last four months have been the most tumultuous period the world has seen in the longest time. Never before have we seen uncertainty, despair, and negativity pervading around us at such an enormous scale. An invisible virus has made its ominous presence felt steadily and stealthily from one country in December 2019 to more than 200 countries in July 2020. With more than 14.5 million cases reported so far, it has already shaken many economies, ravaged many business houses, resulted in job losses, deaths, and broken many homes. It has engulfed us with its threatening existence, not just physically but mentally as well. A rude shock that will take us a long time to recover from.

Notwithstanding the grave situation, many positive outcomes have also come to light. It has brought into focus many long-forgotten elementary concepts such as the importance of empathy and mental well-being, our relationships, sustainability and minimalism, hygiene and cleanliness, frugal innovation. It has made us aware of what is really valuable and not in the overall scheme of things. Moreover, it brought to light the true warriors of our times. The ones who have been battling their personal battles and the more massive war with COVID-19. My salute to the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police force, those in transport, those in sanitation, those in NGOs, and so many more whose names we don’t know but are the true heroes – our warriors! 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”Here are my lessons learned in the past four months since COVID-19 has dared us to be adaptable for our survival.

Charles Darwin

A – Atmanirbhar (Self-reliance)With no house helps at our beck and call, with no carpenters or electricians available a phone call away, I have learned the importance of survival skills, the hard way. Whether cooking or cleaning, fixing a leaking pipe, or a wooden bench, it is clear that if one has to survive, necessary life skills are a must-have. So, the first and most important lesson that comes to my mind for this list is to be self-reliant. One cannot always depend on others to get things done. 

B – BreatheWhen stressed, it is said that our breathing slows down, or it becomes irregular. As simple as it may sound, taking a few deep breaths makes me feel at peace and mindful of my thoughts and helps to put things in perspective. I have understood the importance of focusing on my breathing in moments of stress or anxiety.

C – Collaboration Being self-reliant is not an option for many, especially those who are older and weaker. In such cases, what we really need to do is to collaborate and support each other to the best of our abilities. Whether at home or office, problems or challenges become easier to resolve through collaboration. For those who are healthy and young, it’s our responsibility to be there for their support. And remember, charity begins at home!

D – Digitalization There is a meme that has gone viral, and I am not surprised. It truly sums up the current situation on a lighter note.

The organization I work with has been going through its own digital transformation journey for the last two years. In a way, we were more than ready when COVID-19 took the world by storm and displaced our work economies, work lives, and workplaces. At the beginning of March, we were probably among the first group of organizations to announce work from home. After that, the organization has continuously instituted programs for the staff to remain socially connected through Coffee Break sessions 2-3 times a week and provide free online resources to keep us skilled and reskilled. We also were able to advance the launch of a slew of digital offerings for our customers that were in the pipeline. We made our certification exams available from home through online proctor testing when testing centers were closed.Moreover, we have provided free resources and courses to our members for upskilling, given the difficult times our customers are going through. In a nutshell, we have been able to ease our stakeholders’ lives despite what the world has been going through. All this was possible only because we were digitally able. I cannot stress enough the criticality of being digitally savvy and technologically mature, not just for organizations but also for individuals. Many organizations have had to reinvent and focus on being agile for staying relevant to their stakeholders. Those with no appetite or hunger for business agility will probably not be able to survive the COVID-19 storm.

E – Empathy “Empathy” may become one of the hot contenders for the most popular word in 2020 (after Corona, Covid-19, and Positive). I have learned that even when I am strapped for TLC and practicing compassion may seem arduous, I must remember that the energy moves in circles. What goes around also comes around in some form or other. So, pay it forward, I say!

F – Family Staying indoors, being with their own folks more than ever, seeing them 24/7, has been a challenge for some. However, for me, it has highlighted the value of near and dear ones more than ever.One should treasure their presence, whether in the same physical space, over long-distance phone calls, or even video conference calls. They are your real source of happiness and joy that we should cherish for as long as possible. In the last four months, I have been privileged to enjoy the presence of my family (parents and in-laws) at home. Also, regular video calls with cousins, and family members spread across different parts of Mumbai, different cities, and even countries, have completely energized me and made my day. At the end of the day, what really matters is how you cherish your relationships.

G – Gratitude I have realized that a negative thought can be immediately nipped in the bud. How? By accepting and being thankful for all the privileges, I enjoy that many would die for. By practicing gratitude, it just puts things in perspective. It makes me realize the pettiness of my worries and the irrelevance of negative thoughts.

H – Hygiene Washing hands for 20 seconds, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and washing objects that are entering homes with soap water, may have seemed like a bizarre scene from an “Apocalypse Now” type movie before COVID-19. But today, it is a harsh reality. My respect to all those who have consistently practiced it for the past 120 plus days. Because it is not just about protecting our individual self but also others around us and ensuring the virus does not spread.

How agile are we in thoughts and actions will keep us ahead of the curve rather than complaining about the challenges and problems at hand.

I – Interests and Hobbies Being drowned in office and housework has strained many of us. The day starts and ends with work and leaves us exhausted to do anything else but fall off to sleep at night. In these times, even though I have not been able to spend any time on my hobbies, that’s one thing I highly recommend to anyone who has some free time at hand. I say this because more than ever, with many folks being restricted at home, there is a feeling of restlessness and helplessness. For those who are not busy and have never had a passion for any interest or hobby, this empty space is like a devil’s workshop. I have heard many people have become depressive, having been restricted at home with nothing to do. So, pick up a hobby, it’s never too late.

J – Joys Being stuck at home and not enjoying the outdoors can really restrict the number of enjoyable options for a person like me who borders on being an extravert. Instead of deriving joys from the external environment, I have learned to focus on simple pleasures that were not available to me earlier. For example, warm conversations over lunch with family members on weekdays, catching the bird calls/sightings from our window, enjoying the fresh breeze coming through in the mornings and evenings, soaking in the soothing patches of greenery around us, and so much more.

K – Karma It may sound preachy, but I think COVID-19 is nothing but results of the Karma of the entire human race. For me, this is a warning for us to take care of our Mother Earth and treat her gently and responsibly. Be good. Think good. Do good. Period!

L – Less is More More than ever, I have understood how our house is filled with more than we require. I have learned the unimportance of having so many clothes in the wardrobe, many footwear in the shoe rack, and many other sundry items that we can live without. The focus is now to declutter and recycle. And before buying any non-essential items, ask me – Do I really need them? Mantra is Recycle. Reuse. Repair.

M – Meditation I recently took a 21-day meditation challenge, which a friend invited me to, and believe me, it was like a breath of fresh air. A refreshing experience altogether. It meant just 15 minutes of me-time every day, it really charged me up, and I learned a simple yet profound lesson. By being focused on staying in the present and being mindful can bring a lot of clarity, a better perspective, and also solutions to your unanswered questions.

N – Negativity Stay away from negativity. Especially the toxic news in the media, and people with negative vibes. Thankfully, these two are not invisible like the virus, and we can avoid both easily.

O – Obedience Following the self-distancing rules and being obedient to the safety guidelines is the best policy to be followed. Being compliant is not being foolish and submissive and in no way hinders freedom. It means showing respect to others and fulfilling your responsibility to the best of your ability. I know of some folks who took these guidelines rather lightly and are now paying the consequences. Sometimes we learn from other’s mistakes.

P – Pivot Acceptance of the current situation at the earliest and ability to pivot quickly to the new way of living is another lesson I have learned. How agile are we in thoughts and actions will keep us ahead of the curve rather than complaining about the challenges and problems at hand. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Q – Quietness I have learned to cherish the quietness in our neighborhood. The sweet chirping of the birds, the barren roads, streets without people, and the absence of car honking, we have forgotten to be thankful for. Didn’t we always wish for the atmosphere of the countryside in our own city? Here it is! So, let’s enjoy it till it lasts.

R – Resilience Each one of us has been tested to our limits. Whether old or young, healthy or disabled, rich or poor has been at the receiving end. In a way, this pandemic has been a great leveler in many respects. However, one thing I have learned is resilience is what separates the wheat from the chaff. This is the only thing that will help us to keep our heads above water and stay alive. 

No one has that crystal ball yet to show us what the next month would look like, let alone next year or next five years.

S – Self- care The importance of having strong immunity was always known. But now, more than ever, having or not having good health can be a life and death situation, has been a revelation. Not just to fend off the virus but also to recover from it faster, in case affected. It all boils down to proper nutrition, meditation, and physical activity to keep fit. In a nutshell, I have learned the importance of self-care and investing in my health regularly. If I am not healthy, this journey is going to be more arduous, and moreover, I will not be able to take care of those dependent on me.

T – Transparency Only if we had known about COVID-19 before it spread to other countries. Only if we knew what precautions to take to stop the spread. Only if we knew the real numbers that were affected. Only if there was transparency!This is one big lesson for me as an individual.

U – Upskilling We may find some industries as well as professions becoming redundant or resized along with job losses. No one has that crystal ball yet to show us what the next month would look like, let alone next year or next five years. A common question on everyone’s mind. However, all I can deduce based on the past four months is no one can continue to live under the rock i.e., not get upskilled. I know now that more than ever, I will need to continually focus on what I am good at (or not), what skills I need to acquire that will help me to stay relevant now and in the future.

V – Virtual reality Who knew that wearing pajamas or shorts for office meetings would become the new norm? Who knew that virtual water cooler conversations would also become part of the company’s policy? Who knew that not having a digital presence would make them non-existent? Who knew that school/office buildings would become redundant? Who knew that blaming traffic for being late would become a lame excuse? Who knew that the friendly tap on the back or a handshake would become a taboo? Virtually no one, right! So many things unlearnt and learned in this virtual world.

W – Wander I love traveling, whether in our own backyard, city, country, or outside the country. However, the past four months has made me realize the importance of the freedom I enjoyed in regular times. Being a true wanderer, I have realized that I can still travel to all the beautiful places. How? Reminiscing the beautiful memories, flipping through my mind’s photo album, and bringing them to life and living those experiences all over again. 

X – Xtremes Everything that I have done, whether domestic or office duties, has been extra plus compared to four months ago. Simultaneously, there are diametrically opposite cases where businesses have stopped functioning, and the staff has been asked to go; as they have become extra. Life has become difficult in extremes for sure.

Y – Yoga The most important and yet most understated in terms of benefits is Yoga. And in the last four months, I have understood why Yoga needs to be brought more in my life. Not just as a form of physical or breathing exercise but in many other aspects. There is so much I need to unravel and learn on this subject. I have promised myself that whatever turn my life takes, I will remain a lifelong student of Yoga.

Z – ZOOM Who knew that our life would be all about zoom in and zoom out? Pardon the pun, but working on my laptop almost the whole day and having office meetings on platforms such as Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams has become a different ball game altogether. That reminds me I need to get my eye(balls) checked. Oh no, the doc’s appointment needs to be scheduled on Zoom.

Originally published here.