New York City (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
In Southern California, three generations of a family gathered their separate households under one roof to weather the pandemic — and liked it so much they decided to make it permanent. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, students organized to buy groceries and essentials for the housebound. And as the virus surged, a nationwide Brides’ magazine survey of engaged couples showed that 82% found the pandemic only made them keener to wed.
COVID-19, this nation’s deadliest pandemic, has taken the lives of over 700,000 Americans and about 4.5 million people worldwide. Everyone has been through some struggle – illness, grief over unimaginable loss, or the miasma of uncertainty about jobs, education, and daily routines. Amid tragedy and challenges, though, people have shown remarkable kindness. They have also forged new bonds, gained fresh insights into what it means to be there for others, and re-examined life priorities.
A Pew research survey of what it called the pandemic’s silver linings and struggles showed the clarity that came from being thrown together or living apart from loved ones and friends, and losing the underpinnings of everyday life, from office work to entertainment. The renowned economist Paul Krugman has even theorized that workers are quitting jobs at record rates in part because the pandemic has made them rethink their lives.
As we negotiate re-entry into work, school, socializing, and public spaces, plenty of us are dusting off that saying attributed to Winston Churchill: never let a good crisis go to waste. As an advocate for mental wellbeing, I do indeed believe that we can use these difficult days to foster personal growth and improve mental fitness.
By mental fitness I mean not just getting by or holding on. Rather, I define mental fitness as actively taking steps to achieve and maintain a state of wellbeing. Wellbeing means being more intentional: naming what we think, feel, and believe, and managing our emotions and behavior. We will all have ups and downs, but the more mentally fit we are, the more likely we are to weather a major life crisis or even a global pandemic.
Our level of mental fitness indicates whether we are able to draw on coping strategies that do not involve substance misuse, withdrawal, or hurting ourselves or others. The same way we work on toning our arms and legs and increasing our strength, we can learn exercises and practice skills that help us maintain mental fitness.
Here in New York City, …….