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With the world still in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s difficult to imagine life beyond social distancing and face masks. But that day will come. Even when respirators and ventilators are no longer the central topics of conversation, you will still be able to see the coronavirus’s lasting impact on society.
The coronavirus has already shaped your understanding and approach toward health and wellness. From how you practice self-care to what you deem an essential trip, the long-lasting effects of this pandemic have started to take root.
One day, it will again be safe to stand too close behind someone in line at the grocery store, hug a loved one, take international trips or breathe heavily during a hard workout at the gym. However, the life you resume will likely look, at least a little, different from your pre-coronavirus existence.
Moving forward, life should adhere to these four key takeaways from the coronavirus. You can use what you learned during the outbreak to shape your future self.
Routines are Self-care
When the coronavirus upended normal routines around the world, the lack of structure made many people feel depressed or anxious. Psychiatrist Mimi Winsberg told GQ that routines calm people’s nerves and provide reassurance without them even realizing it.
If you are one of the many people who transitioned from working in an office to working from home, it’s possible you have struggled to find structure within your new schedule and setting. When people’s mental health is suffering, experts like Winsberg suggest establishing a routine.
From when to wake up and what to wear to plans for cooking and exercising, the structure of a routine provides comfort in uncertain times. For self-care inspiration, many people have turned to online sites and devices such as smartwatches that help them prioritize their health and stick to a routine.
Looking ahead, you should seek to uphold your routines. When unforeseeable circumstances occur, even seemingly simple routines can provide the structure you need to maintain both your mental and physical well-being.
Seek Virtual Connection
In addition to helping people prioritize their health, technology has allowed people to stay connected with friends and family despite social distancing guidelines. The coronavirus crisis has revealed the power of virtual connections.
When you realized you’d be stuck at home, you likely thought your social life would suffer. But, thanks to applications like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, people across the country have used video chat to facilitate virtual hangouts with friends and family.
Once the pandemic is over, group video chats will continue to be a viable way for far-flung family and friends to stay in touch. Whether you’re stuck at home or not, you can utilize technology for meaningful connections.
Rethink Your Impact on the Environment
With the majority of the country at home in front of their screens and off the streets, there has been a dramatic decrease in fossil fuel emissions. This decrease in fossil fuel emissions could likely mean fewer deaths attributed to air pollution.
Prior to shelter-in-place mandates, people had a much looser definition of what constituted an essential trip. More trips in the car contributed to deadly levels of air pollution, which some researchers are calling a “pandemic” in and of itself.
Air pollution can cause a variety of cardiovascular diseases and other afflictions including asthma. While prescription medications such as Breo can treat asthma attacks, people should recognize the impact that frequent and often unnecessary driving has on air quality.
Even after shelter-in-place mandates are lifted, you should think twice about getting in your car to go somewhere and, if possible, opt for a more environmentally-friendly option such as walking or having goods delivered. However, since it is recommended to drive your car every couple of weeks to make sure things like your battery, brakes, and tires are maintained, try to plan trips where a car is necessary around that time frame.
Prepare for Future Global Health Crises
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the coronavirus outbreak has brought to light how unequipped the world is to handle a global health crisis. Since it is not a matter of if another pandemic happens but when, society must prepare for future global health crises.
Duquesne’s School of Nursing notes the top issues threatening public health, as identified by the World Health Organization. In addition to a global influenza pandemic, other issues include climate change, antimicrobial resistance, high-threat pathogens, and noncommunicable diseases.
With so many threats looming, it’s imperative that society immediately begins preparing for the next global health crisis. Preparations should include training more medical professionals, growing the national stockpile of medical equipment and shifting toward a centralized health system.
Vox contributor Dylan Scott notes that during a crisis such as the coronavirus outbreak, the United States’ highly decentralized health care system can lead to the implementation of differing strategies with varying results across states and cities. For optimum success, he suggests that the federal government should apply the best strategies to the entire country.
The need for future preparedness, the environmental impact of frequent travel, the power of virtual connection and how routines affect wellness are four of the key takeaway lessons from the coronavirus. As you start to think about life post-outbreak, these valuable lessons can help you shape what that life will look like.
Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time you can find her in the mountains with her two dogs. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @indianalee3