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One year into the pandemic: why we need hope more than ever

one year
Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

One year ago my daughter and I sat in an empty downtown cafeteria-style restaurant, normally so full on a Friday night you could barely move.

A few weeks into the pandemic, that restaurant closed, taking with it all the memories I’d created there as a young adult with friends, and later with my family and children.

Since the health scare started, the losses have continued to pile up. These include loss of employment, freedom of movement, travel and physical touch. Things considered essential to basic human existence before the world changed one year ago.

Now, in the face of all these losses, the most important key to hold onto is hope. Not the Pollyanna version that looks more like toxic positivity. But true hope that believes the future can be better than the past.

So, how do we keep hope alive in the face of such uncertainty around our coming days, weeks and months?

Live one day at a time

They teach this essential life skill in 12-step recovery programs. It originates with the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”(Matthew 6:34)

Anxiety arises when we think too much about the future or ruminate on the past. Click To Tweet

Anxiety arises when we think too much about the future or ruminate on the past. Believe me, I’ve tortured myself with flashbacks and worry over the days to come even though I know the drill.

Find meaning in life

After experiencing the worst possible horror in a Nazi death camp, Viktor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it, he shares his theory that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning, and move forward with a sense of purpose.

Obviously, our suffering is nothing like what Frankl endured. But we can learn from his experience of maintaining hope regardless of circumstances. We do not know what the future holds and therefore cannot write it off as hopeless.

We do not know what the future holds and therefore cannot write it off as hopeless. Click To Tweet

Make it a choice

Hope is a decision we make to refuse to give up. It’s a way of taking back control of a situation by saying “this is the way I’m going to feel about it”. In this way, hope empowers us to claim our own minds as our territory, no one else’s.

Hope fuels us to feel better and gives us peace of mind. Choosing hope means we experience less anxiety and benefit from improved physical health.

Mind what you consume

This has nothing to do with the Covid 15, but with media. Due to news stories about government rules, I began to lose hope around travel, an activity that gave me much pleasure before lockdowns started one year ago.

Then I caught an FB video of a nurse who had traveled to Africa as a volunteer and faced all sorts of restrictions upon her return to Toronto airport.

She would have to quarantine at a government-sanctioned hotel at a personal cost of several thousand dollars, and take the invasive PCR test. But she said no to both.

After enduring the discomfort of the authorities’ direct challenges, she was allowed to go home. Their program relied on her complicity and she refused to give it. They told her they would mail her a ticket for her infraction.

This simple story buoyed my emotions so much. It changed my whole outlook and gave me a key that released me from the prison of my own mind. That’s the power of hope.

To believe once again that you live in a free country with inalienable rights of movement and travel. To stop focusing on the doom and gloom that started one year ago. And pay attention to the actual control we hold over our own destiny.

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