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The Twelve Gifts of Covid

There is no denying that this year has had its challenges. However, instead of begrudging this season of uncertainty and misgivings, why don’t we take the next couple minutes to sit back and ponder all the gifts that this time has brought us? Yes, I said gifts. I know it seems preposterous to think that anything good could come out of a global pandemic like Covid-19. However, I would argue that it is not only possible, but has already happened... if you choose to see it.

Beyond the obvious blessings like: wearing pajama bottoms on Zoom calls, and not having to make awkward small talk with that one crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, there are gifts that we have been given that will last much longer than our stretchy pants or dusty workout equipment. There are gifts that we receive that are not delivered to our door by Amazon, but are fostered by connection, reflection, and love.

These are the gifts that we are going to focus on as More Than Lupus presents to you,

“The Twelve Gifts of Covid.”

The first gift of Covid is: PATIENCE

"The lessons we learn from practicing patience cultivate our character.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Did you know it takes certain types of cactus 75 years before they grow their first arm? Saguaro Cactuses are known as one of the most resilient and patient of its species. It is amazing that plants can be more resilient and patient than most humans! I mean, do you think you would be able to withstand not growing for 75 years in the sweltering dessert? I know I wouldn’t. We can’t even stand “sheltering in place” for a few weeks.

Sometimes it is difficult to view waiting on something as a gift. I mean, I know many of us are waiting on a lot of things right now. Waiting on schools, restaurants, and churches to re-open, waiting on a vaccine, waiting on a new political climate… it feels like the waiting game has gone into overtime! However, did you know cultivating patience is not only a skill but can be extremely beneficial to you? It’s true! When you push off immediate gratification, not only does it help you gain perspective on what really matters to you, but it helps you bridle any impulsive behaviors. It also teaches restraint, self-control, and intentionality.

Covid-19 has been a part of our lives for about a year now, and in that time, I am sure many of you have had to show patience in one form or another. I encourage you to make a list of situations that you have had to show patience towards, and follow up that list with what you have learned through each season of waiting. You might be surprised to find out that your mother was right all along when she said, “Patience is a virtue” because it is.

The second gift of Covid is: QUALITY TIME

Our most precious commodity is not money, but time, and Covid-19 has given a lot of us just that.

“I realized that no matter how much time we think we have; at the end of the day, what I came to appreciate was that we simply don’t spend enough quality time with our families...” -Tomislav Georgiev, UNICEF Photographer

The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention. I know that may sound like a sappy line from the latest Hallmark Christmas movie, but it is #truth. In fact, child psychologists for decades have studied the link between quality time and healthy emotional and cognitive development. Why is it so important? According to one study, children who received appropriate quality time with their loved ones were less likely to develop behavioral issues, participate in risky behaviors, and exhibited better physical health as well. But, quality time doesn’t just benefit children. It is good for us adults, too. We, as a species, are wired for connection. Whether it be an event, or a virus like Covid-19, we are wired to connect with each other during difficult times.

A moment of quality interaction can have a lasting impact. Who knows, maybe one year you will look back on 2020 as the year you grew closer with your family by making unique memories, not the year of the mysterious virus.

If you want to give the gift of quality time, remember that it’s quality not quantity that counts. Keep it simple and connect with your loved ones in a way that makes sense for your lifestyle and relationships. Share mealtime together, play a game, be silly, have conversations without technology interruptions.

We have been given the gift of time - time to use it wisely.

The third gift of Covid is: CONTENTMENT

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” -Helen Keller

Let’s be real, finding contentment during Covid-19 may feel challenging. However, as Bernard Williams once stated, “We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Contentment can be found right now, in your crazy Covid life. Because contentment is finding joy and satisfaction in what we already have been blessed with. When you choose (it's a choice) to find contentment, there is a freedom gained in not feeling the pressure to compare yourself to others. It enables you to experience gratitude, it can reduce stress, improve your outlooks, and make life (even during Covid) more enjoyable.

Finding contentment despite your circumstances, despite your suffering, despite your lupus, despite Covid - is no easy undertaking; however, there is a stark reality here. The reality is, through this season you are either going to step-up or stumble. Author Richard Rohr said it best, “If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it.” Begrudging this season will only keep you stuck in the sand. However, learning to explore your current situation, ponder it, and use it to better yourself and help others will benefit you greatly.

“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty” —Socrates

The fourth gift of Covid is: SAFETY

Friendly reminder: you are not stuck at home, you are safe at home. Covid has given you a gift of being “safe” on many different levels. Besides lowering the risk of you possibly picking up another virus like the common cold or flu (levels are at a historic low in the US), being home has actually been proven to be good for the environment. Some states are seeing 30% drops in pollution levels! It might not seem like it at first, but being in “Covid lockdown” can have many safety benefits according to UC Davis Road Ecology Director Fraser Shilling, “ The reduction in traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities is a bit of a silver lining for people who are staying at home and who are impacted by the pandemic,” he stated.

At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security. -Jodi Rell

Another astonishing aspect of “safety” that I have come to appreciate is our medical institutions ability to create and test a vaccine in such a short time frame. How marvelous is modern medicine and technology! All this to stay, categorizing “safety” as a gift of Covid may seem a bit odd, but it’s true on many levels!

Note: I would be remiss if I did not mention those that are not as fortunate to find safety in their home. And if you are reading this, and feel unsafe in your current living situation and need help, please click on this link.

The fifth gift of Covid is: GRATITUDE

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." -Marcus Tullius Cicero

Having gratitude does not minimize or ignore the hardships and complications of life or Covid-19; it simply calls us to recognize the goodness that exists in the middle of it. Research on gratitude has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude experience improvements in their physical, psychological, and social well-being. These benefits include: stronger immune systems, reduced stress, decreased depression, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and increased feelings of joy, optimism, and happiness.

The Covid-19 global pandemic has forced us to see more clearly the blessings that are right in front of us, and for many.. how easily those blessings can be taken. As of this week, over 300,000 people have lost their lives to this virus. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandfathers, best friends, significant others…have been taken. Don’t take for granted a moment that you have with your child, grandmother, sister, husband, friend...because you never know what tomorrow brings.

Here are a few ways that you can practice gratitude during this season: keep a gratitude journal, share your gratitude by reaching out to friends and family, reframe the negative, and cultivate generosity. When you appreciate the simple things in life, like going for coffee, meeting a friend for a socially distanced hang, or riding your bike - your brain develops resilience, and it nurtures our ability to adapt to different situations and better cope with stress.

"A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being." -James E. Faust

Before Covid-19 there were no guarantees in life and there will be no guarantees in life after the virus is eliminated. Time to be grateful for what you have now:)

The sixth gift of Covid is: CREATIVITY

But out of limitations comes creativity. -Debbie Allen

Covid-19 just dropped a time bomb in most of our laps. Whatever skill you’ve wanted to learn - cooking, running, technology - NOW is a perfect time. Is there a class you have been yearning to take? Several schools, gyms, museums, and studios are offering classes and opportunities to enjoy services virtually, many free of charge! Reconnecting with an old passion, or taking this time to improve a craft or skill is not only a stress reliever, but a positive spin on “sheltering in place.”

I have seen so many fun and creative things emerge from sheltering in place; therefore, I acknowledge “creativity” as an official gift of Covid!

The seventh gift of Covid is: MINDFULNESS

Whether you are working from home, crisis schooling, being a full-time parent, or otherwise- it might feel like you have been stuck in survivor mode most of the year. It’s important to schedule time for a mental check-in and very imperative to be mindful of when your body needs to take a break. Try setting aside scheduled time for self-soothing that may include: listening to music, reading a book, doing stretches, exercise, or taking an Epsom salt bath.