Ready for take-off
2022/09/27 | By Katarina Gaborova | Photo by Total Shape
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the world changed forever. Lockdown and quarantine had a significant impact on our private and professional lives, on our mental health, and on our ability to travel. Even though life is “open” once again, how different is the landscape of our daily existence two years on?
While sitting in Amsterdam Schiphol airport, sipping a café latte, and waiting patiently for a flight, I found the perfect moment to observe the hustle and bustle of the third busiest airport in Europe. Watching people travel again (something we once took for granted), mingle with fellow passengers, and hug loved ones had become something of a distant memory. The loss of accessibility and simply not being able to “get around” had had an impact in many ways.
Extroverted characters found the loss of social connections and face-to-face interactions a tough challenge whereas more introverted types embraced lockdown life and discovered that working from home and avoiding a commute contributed to a harmonious work/life balance.
No matter which group one falls into, the consequences of Covid-19 undoubtedly contributed to tensions amongst family members, restrictions in social engagements, disruptions to public activities, and a general increase in terms of concerns for our own health and that of our loved ones.
“Clinicians have noticed an increase in fear” says Luna Marques, Clinical Psychologist at Harvard Medical School “along with a rise in anxiety and depression since the start of the pandemic”.
Given my profession, I am keen to investigate how others have managed over the past few years so while on board, I took the opportunity to pose a question to some fellow passengers.
“Since we regained access to public places and restaurants, I truly appreciate meeting friends again, and enjoying a drink or meal prepared by someone else” says Zuzana. “It sounds so simple and ordinary, but it feels so good and I’ve really missed it”, she adds.
I can certainly relate but being able to go to a restaurant again is not the only change we met; we also need to consider the effect of working-from-home.
“I recall going back to the office to facilitate a face-to-face workshop” says Adam. “It was nice not to be online but being around people made me aware of my shyness once again, and it took time to re-establish routines and patterns” he goes on to say.
On the runway
Indeed, leaving ones’ home office space brings fresh perspectives and even a sense of panic. As humans, we are creatures of habit and new habits are things we can adapt to – and adopt – very quickly. Returning to a traditional office environment and interacting with colleagues “in real life” is welcomed by some, but a rather scary prospect for others, and we cannot underestimate the learning curve as we get reacquainted with social interactions and etiquette and leave our home office comfort zone.
Next to the after (and ongoing) effects of Covid-19, along with the recent geo-political invasion of Ukraine, mass shootings in the USA, and continuing issues surrounding poverty and climate change, it is no wonder society is struggling.
While I was sitting in the departure lounge at Schiphol, immersed in thought and surrounded by the buzz of airport noise, it occurred to me to ponder if there might be any positive slant on the world situation as we know it today? Did the Covid-19 pandemic force us to re-discover ourselves and re-access what matters most in life?
As a registered psychologist, I am passionate about helping people find balance, a sense of direction, and a relaxed state of mind. A cornerstone of all these elements is to practice gratitude. It may seem like a small thing, but it has such a big impact. Many would argue that the most important lesson is not taking anything for granted. Positive psychology teaches us that practicing gratitude and having appreciation (or acknowledgement) for the good in our lives can increase our sense of happiness. In fact, the daily practice of identifying three things for which we are grateful helps to cultivate positive emotions, encourage thankfulness, and instill coping abilities – which in turn better equips us to tackle the tougher moments in life.
Fasten your seatbelt
Another important lesson in positive psychology is the practice of savouring, which involves using detailed thoughts, or the actions/senses connected with same, to enjoy each unique moment to the full – be it eating a tasty meal or having a nice time.
In my practice, I discovered that savouring could reverse the downward spiral of negative feelings and that regular practice of the exercise could improve our health, help us make positive life choices, and develop our sense of self-worth. This is often referred to as the “up-regulation of positive emotions”.
Practicing savouring can also increase the intensity, duration, and appreciation of a positive experience and it has been scientifically shown that our stress hormones decrease if we hold on to that feeling for two minutes.
As my plane landed in Slovakia, I was overwhelmed with happiness at seeing my parents again… of hugging them, feeling their touch, hearing their voices. I was ready to make each moment count… from family meals together to simply talking and sharing stories.
As I descended the airplane steps, I felt a soft breeze caress my face and breathed in all the sights, sounds, and smells. I was home… And I was grateful.
Did you know?
If you’re feeling down, want to learn more about positive psychology, or just need someone to talk to, you can reach-out to our Counseling Unit: https://access-nl.org/counselling