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March 11, 2020, was the day COVID-19 really hit home. It came in many forms: for my husband, the cancellation of NBA games; for my son, the extension of March Break into April; and for me, in the ensuing days, a dramatic shift in where, how, and what I did at work.

Two-plus years on, we're still living with the effects of COVID-19. While the situation is improving, the pandemic's 'end' is not as clear-cut as its start. COVID-19 is here to stay, and we need to learn to live with, not be held hostage, by it.

A good place to start is reflecting on how the pandemic has affected us. Many people have experienced loss, illness, challenges, confusion, fear, and frustration. This is understandable, but in the midst of COVID-19, is there a silver lining or something we learned about ourselves?

Dearbhla Lynch photoDearbhla LynchTelling the story of our COVID-19 experiences (writing in a journal, composing a song, painting a picture, or sharing with others) can help us process and come to terms with these changes. We can write our own ending to the pandemic by reflecting on what we learned and were taught by others.

For instance, what I learned was that baking bread during COVID-19 wasn't for me. What mattered were 'little things' like a handwritten note, a surprise care package, or the knowledge someone was thinking of me. Realizing this, I made a commitment to pay it forward to others.

In reflecting on COVID-19's impact, we also need to address the other R's – risk, relationship, and routine – to adjust to life with the virus.

As more COVID-19 restrictions end, managing risks associated with COVID-19 will fall to us. We must choose whether to wear masks, eat out at a restaurant or attend a concert. These choices are different for all of us based on our comfort level, personal circumstances, or health concerns. What should be common – call it common decency – is showing respect and understanding for other people's decisions.

Reviewing relationships is equally important. We're social creatures, so connections can help heal scars from COVID-19 isolation and lockdowns. We may want to meet new people or strengthen existing bonds. Alternately, we may choose to end a relationship that weighs us down or find more 'me' time if we find solace in being alone.

Routines can also help us cope with the new normal. Much of our pandemic angst can be traced to uncertainty and loss of routine. Routines build predictability in our lives, helping us feel safe and calm. We should be intentional in our choices, getting back to things that we enjoy and embracing new routines that bring us pleasure. In deciding what's right, we should opt for routines that are important and 'nourishing.'

Living life with COVID-19 is possible. We just need to (re)learn to live a little!

Dearbhla Lynch
Health Promoter
HKPR District Health Unit

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