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Healing from the Pandemic through Reflection

He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination. - Jose Rizal

As the pandemic prolonged, many of us were eager to "move on" and return to the activities we were restricted from doing, such as gathering with loved ones and traveling. However, a crucial aspect of our community's healing process from the pandemic is taking time to pause and reflect on our collective experiences rather than rushing back to our “normal” lives.

My Pandemic Reflection:

I remember the first day I heard about COVID-19. I had just returned from a trip to the Philippines in January 2020. I sat at the airport watching the news about an "unknown illness" while I happened to be nursing a cold (that was later diagnosed as a "flu-like respiratory illness” that I believe could have been early Covid). I didn't think anything about the news nor my sickness; it seemed like nothing to worry about.

A couple of months passed with the unknown illness rapidly gaining attention in news outlets as it started to spread. In early March, growing fears about the virus emerged, leading to businesses temporarily shutting down and large events being postponed.

At the school I work at, all extracurricular activities were temporarily canceled on March 13th, 2020 and students were released early for spring break. However, what was initially planned as a week-long break turned into a year and a half of students staying at home for distance learning. This transition was challenging for me. I had to adjust from a hands-on role of running an after-school program to facilitating a purely online-based program. We had to pivot our entire curriculum to cater to our students' new needs that arose because of the pandemic.

Aside from work, I filled my time in lockdown with a variety of activities and hobbies. I started each day with a Dalgona coffee, the creamy, whipped Korean coffee that went viral on social media during the lockdown. I coped with the isolation from others by connecting regularly with my friends and family from afar through online games and Zoom happy hours. To pass the time, I tried several different hobbies. I attempted candle-making, creating sampaguita candles that looked beautiful but had no actual scent when lit. I learned to crochet and made one-eighth of a blanket before abandoning the project. And I planted a tomato plant that harvested a few tomatoes only to later dry out from lack of watering. Despite these failed attempts at finding a new hobby, they provided me with entertainment and served as healthy ways to cope with everything that was going on in the world around me.

I share my memories of the lockdown as an example of how each of us encountered the pandemic uniquely. For me, the lockdown provided a welcome respite from life's routine—a moment for rest and rejuvenation and even a time to build new hobbies. But I recognize that others did not see the lockdown this way and instead faced it with heightened fear and anxiety. While the uncertainty scared me too, I found comfort being at home, a privilege that I know others may not have had.

Though we all experienced the coronavirus pandemic, it's crucial to share our stories to reflect on how the pandemic unfolded differently for each of us. By sharing our individual stories, we not only acknowledge the diversity of experiences but also foster empathy and understanding for one another. This care for one another can help us build a more empathetic post-pandemic society.

Here are 3 ways that you can reflect on your own pandemic story:

1. Write About It:

Use journaling to document your experiences. If you prefer free-flowing, unstructured writing, set a 10-minute timer and write whatever comes to mind when you think about the pandemic. Don’t worry about things like spelling or grammar—just write! The key is to capture anything and everything you can remember. If you prefer structured writing, here are a few prompts to help you reflect on the pandemic:

  • What was lockdown like for you? How did you spend your time?     

  • How did the coronavirus pandemic impact your personal and professional life?

  • What emotions did you experience during the pandemic, and how did you cope with them? Have there been any lasting effects on your mental and emotional well-being?

  • What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the pandemic, and how did you overcome them?

2. Create a Reflection Collage:

If you’re more of a visual person, try reflecting on your pandemic experience through arts and crafts. Grab some supplies: a piece of paper, scissors, glue, markers, and items like photos, magazines, and news articles. Compile all the items that capture your experiences during the pandemic, cut them out, and paste them together into an art piece. You can even make a digital version of this collage by compiling photos and videos on your phone.

3. Engage in Storytelling with Others:

One of the pandemic's toughest challenges was being apart from our loved ones. Prioritizing and savoring moments spent together has become much more valuable because of this. Set aside time to visit with your loved ones, sharing stories and pandemic experiences. Everyone has different perspectives. Use this time to engage in healthy dialogue, discussing how each person navigated lockdown, sharing highs and lows, and exchanging valuable lessons learned.

Engaging in these reflection exercises can be beneficial for our healing by giving us the opportunity to revisit and process our individual experiences from the pandemic. Feel free to share your own pandemic reflection in the blog comments!

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