Three lessons I’ve learnt during COVID-19 that have helped me to grow

It's hard to stay positive during the circuit breaker, but finding ways to learn and grow is possible.

Ashley Tan Yu Yi

Published: 11 May 2020, 2:56 PM

COVID-19 hasn’t been the kindest to everyone. With adjustments made to work or study arrangements and a complete breakdown of routines, many youths are struggling with worsened mental health.

As someone who relished my freedom during the pre-coronavirus period, I can empathise with feelings of boredom and restlessness. Some days, I struggle to battle an unexplainable sense of anxiety too.

But for those of us who have stayed healthy and been lucky enough to live in a safe space at home, this period has afforded us lots of time to think, reflect and possibly even try to make positive changes in our lives.

Looking back on the past month and a half, I feel like I’ve grown quite a bit, even in ways I didn’t expect. Here are three things I’ve learned during the circuit breaker that have helped me grow as a person.

Set mini goals and take action to achieve them

I was inspired to spend 30 minutes each day writing down my reflections on my past experiences, current feelings and mini future goals. Not only has this allowed me to check in on myself, it has also helped me identify goals to work towards and be excited about.

Short daily reflections help you verbalise your emotions and work towards your goals.

For instance, at the start of the circuit breaker, I told myself that I wanted to spruce up my culinary repertoire since the kitchen was, quite literally, the closest tool at my disposal.

Previously, I always used the need to ‘rush off for meetings’ or ‘head out for an activity’ as excuses to justify not making lunch or dinner. But this time, I wanted to hold myself accountable.

Since the start of the circuit breaker, I’ve tried my hand at more basic dishes like baked chicken with stuffed cheese and jalapenos. In the past two weeks, I’ve also dabbled with desserts like Orh Nee and peanut butter cookies.

Because I’ve always loved Italian food, I’ve also promised to try out some homemade ragù and lasagne in the coming weeks (wish me luck!).

Not only has setting mini goals and following through with them empowered me to try new things, it has also proven to me that determination goes a long way. Hopefully, this practice is something I’ll continue even after the circuit breaker.

Some freshly baked (and half-eaten!) banana cake.

Fitness is key to staying physically and emotionally healthy

With all the constant eating and inactivity, I realised mid-way into the circuit breaker that I was feeling lethargic all the time, even to the point where I was unable to concentrate on work.

When I complained about this to a friend, she told me that she was experiencing the opposite — following YouTube fitness video challenges daily had given her bouts of extra energy.

Inspired, I decided to try a few popular fitness channels, including ones run by Emi WongChloe Ting, and our very own home-grown KPOPX Fitness.

Meditating after my workout helps my body recover quicker and get ready for the day ahead.

Some days, just hauling myself out of my chair into the small “workout” corner I’ve set up is an absolute chore. But each workout video is meant to only take up 10 to 15 minutes of your day, so there isn’t really any excuse to skip it.

Body image has always been something I’ve struggled with, but this period has also enabled me to reflect on my relationship with my body and how I plan to treat it moving forward.

Having the discipline to exercise and eat well can be an uphill battle if you’re chasing results like a flatter stomach or more toned legs. But I’ve found that working out has helped improve my level of concentration and overall well-being (maybe it’s the endorphins), and that is good motivation for me to carry on with this routine in future.

Staying socially engaged is possible (and important)

Another thing I’ve learned during the circuit breaker is that physical isolation does not mean social isolation. In a slightly ironic way, I feel like I’ve actually grown closer to certain friends despite not being in physical contact with them.

Before the circuit breaker, I was always busy ‘completing assignments’ or ‘running errands’, which prevented me from meeting up with friends. Now, with more time on my hands, I’m more able to set aside an hour at night for a Skype or Zoom session with friends to catch up and update one another on how we’re coping.

Nurturing my relationships with those who matter most undoubtedly brings a warm, happy feeling. Moving forward, I hope to be more conscious about carving out time for the people who are important to me.

Everyone is busy, but being busy isn’t an excuse for not making an effort.

Me (left) video-calling a university friend who’s back in America due to COVID-19. PHOTO CREDITS: ASHLEY TAN YU YI

While I feel like I’ve experienced self-growth during this season, I’ve had my fair share of unproductive days. There are times when I feel really listless staying cooped up in a single place, or frustrated over minor things.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up for not being productive all the time. Taking a break or having a lazy day is completely valid too.

But if anything, this period has highlighted the importance of self-care and introspection to me. Making mental notes to ask yourself how you’re doing every day, why you’re feeling a certain way, or how you can make things better are more important than we realise.

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