Riya Patel: What COVID-19 Has Taught Me

As an aspiring healthcare professional, I wanted to speak out about the relationship between mental health and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (which has now hit the one-year mark), and my own experiences with it.

For ages now, the terms “quarantine” and “social distancing” have been around. To many, these concepts have been familiar, and a daily occurrence. Take, for example, cancer patients, or any patient with a weak immune system. They have been socially distanced every day of their life as a patient, to make sure that they do not contract diseases or even catch something as simple as the common cold so that they can live.

As the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading and expanding across the world, the concept of a “quarantine” started to transform into a living reality – for each and every one of us. Countries around the world went on lockdown, ultimately changing the way that our society functions – schools being canceled for the entire year, limits being put on traveling, not being allowed to gather in groups, requiring masks to be worn in public places, and most of all, trying to stay home as much as you can.

Now, at the start of this pandemic, many people in society took this phenomenon lightly, thinking that they couldn’t contract the disease and that they were somehow, “safe” from it. In reality, this ended up showing false due to the fact that people ignored social distancing rules, ultimately leading, at least the United States of America, to have the number of cases it does today – over 20 million. As this started to happen, the media started to focus on the negative aspects of the pandemic, rather than trying to look at the bright side. It started to focus on the selfishness of those who refused to give up their social lives for social distancing, as well as an individual’s greed to stock up on food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. As we know, these feelings of fear and anxiety are normal during a pandemic and are bound to cause some negativity, but with all the tragedy occurring in the world right now, I believe that we should take the positive light into consideration.

Sure, no one truly knows when we will rise above the spread of this pandemic. Every single day, the number of cases and deaths rise – leading us to question, when will this all end? It is greatly terrifying to know that such an illness is widely spreading across the globe and that we don’t have a set answer as to when the world will “reopen”. 

Although it might seem like an unusual time to be optimistic, positivity is essential in the face of this crisis. During times like these, we need to smile, appreciate the small things in life and have our family members’ backs. For the past nine months that I’ve spent in quarantine, I’ve personally come to appreciate how fortunate I am. For my family, the resources I have, and all the luxuries in my life, that allow me to live normally, without any worries, while being in this quarantine. I realized that many people don’t even have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over their heads in these tough times, making me feel even more grateful for everything I have been given.

I am also grateful for all of the people who put their lives at risk on a daily basis so that we are able to safely stay in quarantine. Of course, hats off to the volunteers, nurses, and doctors who are all working in emergency rooms to make quick decisions and trying to save as many lives as they can – while trying to save their own. Although the media has shed light on the healthcare professionals who are working to save lives, quite literally, it is also important to recognize those who are helping society function. The garbage and recycling collectors who come every week to make sure that there is no buildup of trash in neighborhoods, the grocery store workers who put themselves at risk (in that they come into contact with a multitude of people) so that people could buy groceries to feed their family at home, the hospice and elderly care nurses, and the volunteers who are making masks and going shopping for families with elderly. They have their own families to go back to at home, but they still choose the risk and decide to serve their communities as well. Because of them, our society has been able to function normally, allowing us to stay at home with our families and get the resources and services we need. 

Although we have been in quarantine for a while now, I believe that we should take this aspect of “social distancing” into a positive light by both society and media. Even if we aren’t able to meet with our friends, travel, or do some things we were able to do in the past, we are still fortunate to have people in our community that work hard to protect us, putting themselves as well as their family’s lives at risk, and should be grateful to all of them for keeping us safe. 

Furthermore, we should take this quarantine to appreciate the small things in life as well as reflect on our true selves. We should take this time at home to prioritize ourselves and family, as well as appreciate those who serve us to allow us to spend family time while they take care of major issues in society.

Here are five lessons that I, personally, have learned in quarantine so far:

1. Value of Family

Spending more time indoors means more time with family. These are the times when your family matters the most. For those of you who don’t know, I live with my grandparents at home, and my increased time in the house has allowed me to spend more time with them. I have come to appreciate the fact that we are all in safe conditions and are able to bond during this time. During times of a pandemic, especially COVID, it is very important for you to keep your family close to you and spend time with them – as you may never get this kind of time to spend with them ever again. 

2. Importance of Socializing

Humans are social creatures, and through socializing, we thrive. Being in quarantine has limited our time to go out and communicate with others – our neighbors, at the gym, the grocery stores, and schools or work – let alone with our friends and extended families. As we stay indoors, it is still important to socialize with others as we can sometimes feel lonely. Pick up your phone and FaceTime, Zoom Call, or use any other method of video-conferencing, and talk to your friends! Even if you can’t talk to them in person, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them at all!

3. Showing Gratitude and Self-Reflect

During these times of uncertainty, I have learned that we should show our gratitude to those who continue to put themselves at risk to ensure that our society is still up and running. Instead of complaining about “being locked in the house”, we should be thankful that we don’t have to risk the lives of our family as well as ourselves, and are able to stay safely at home. We should show our greatest regards to those who are still working outside to make sure society functions. We should also take this increased time in the home to take a look inwards. Do things that you enjoy, take some time to yourself, reflect on your goals, and try to act upon them! Quarantine is the best time to introspect and start working towards your goals – as you have so much time on your hands!

4. Engage Yourself in Creative Ideas

Since you have a lot of time in the house, why not put this time to some productive use? Try to get your creative juices flowing – do anything that you enjoy and pleases you. At this time, a lot of people are using their creativity to make masks for their community. For me, I started this blog, since I have an interest in the medical field, and I wanted to educate the public about different problems going on in the world and raise awareness for them. Even if your ideas don’t necessarily give back to the community, such as doing art or following a DIY tutorial, still do it! This flow and mood of creativity will allow you to not get bored and discover yourself even more!

5. Stay Alert and Informed

As the pandemic spreads, it is important to stay informed about the different problems going on in the world. I’ve never been an avid news watcher, but ever since I’ve been at home in quarantine, my parents and I would take a look at the news channels. From this, I have learned that it is very important we stay informed, but don’t obsess over the news. Take a look at it for a few minutes, and that’s all you’ll need to get your “daily dose”! Also, I have learned to make sure to fact check my sources when watching the news, and glance at a variety of news channels to see each one’s input on the ongoing issues of the world. Fact-checking is important when watching the news, but so is making sure that you don’t get obsessed with it (as this can lead to increased fear and panic).

I hope you all were able to see a few things that I’ve learned from this quarantine and apply them to your lives! Please stay safe! Wash your hands, social distance, and always remember, positivity is key!