As I write this, I am wrapping up end of year tasks (this is one of the last must-dos) and looking forward to 2022. I think it is going to look much different than any of us expected. I know for myself, I thought, perhaps naively, that we would be past some of the COVID challenges. I was hopeful at this time last year that we would be back to some normalcy. While things are different than a year ago, we still have a long way to go in managing life as COVID continues to bring more challenges and new variants.
The past two years have challenged us in ways that we couldn’t even imagine before a pandemic swept our world. It’s likely that for all of us, some of our challenges have been positive and we have grown and learned from them. Other challenges may have caused us to face things we would rather avoid.
One thing is certain as we look to the New Year; more challenges are coming our way. Some we can’t even begin to predict. Others are challenges continuing from the past two years. Additional variations are likely. As are continued disruption in travel plans and uncertainty about the job market and returning to our offices. We still see struggles to meet the medical needs of patients as COVID cases surge around the country. School and corporations are still making decisions about masking and when/if to return to remote learning. All of these issues will continue to arise this year. There will be much debate amongst the experts, and the not so experts. This continued debate will continue to bring out the best and worst of us.
Moving in to 2022 will necessitate us all to dig deeper into seemingly depleted reserves. Heading into the pandemic, many geared ourselves up for a bumpy road. Few anticipated the length of the ride or the long-term effects of being in survival mode. There are some areas most of us will likely to need to dig deeper into this upcoming year.
We will also need to dig deeper into gratitude. I can list several things that COVID has brought to me that I am grateful for. More time with my kids at home, especially my daughter before she began college last year. It brought a slower pace, which was much needed. Finding new things to be grateful for as the pandemic and restrictions evolve may be more of a challenge. Finding gratitude at the return to normalcy of even little things can be helpful. For me, being able to plan a spontaneous trip to visit friends for New Year’s Eve wouldn’t have been possible a year ago and now it is a reality. Having live trainings scheduled for the spring brings me hope. (For others it may be dining out at a restaurant or being able to attend a sporting event that was not possible last year. Or maybe it is something as small as being able to hug a family member or friend instead of meeting over the phone or computer.)
We will need to dig deeper into finding grace for both ourselves and others. We are all frustrated at the impact and inconveniences COVID continues to have on our lives. Longer lines, more limited selection in stores, disrupted plans, cancellation of much anticipated events, and many other disappointments continue to add up. This cumulative effect will likely continue to test us. Finding new ways to manage these disappointments, while still giving them a voice, is important. Understanding that while things have improved from a year ago, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We are still experiencing its effects and will likely to be impacted by them through 2022. Maybe you are still struggling to exercise as much as you did pre-pandemic, maybe the house isn’t a clean as it used to be, or maybe your Christmas shopping isn’t done yet because shopping feels overwhelming. Give yourself and others grace.
In 2022, we may need to dig deeper to find joy. The newness of working from home, not dressing up, not having to attend meetings at our children’s schools, and saving money by staying at home have come and gone. We may have wished for these things for years, but three years in, it isn’t as perfect as we once thought it would be. We miss our colleagues, we miss interacting (and receiving support) from other parents and teachers, and we miss the power to make the decisions we had available to us pre-COVID. The pandemic has taken so many of our choices and much joy away. Recalibrating our lives because of the pandemic will cause us to be able to find joy in new things. I live in rural Indiana. Prior to COVID, we had one local pizza place that would deliver to our house. Now we can have almost any restaurant deliver to us. Seemingly small, it brings joy to have the choice. A simple thing, but something positive out of this experience.
Whatever 2022 brings our way, we certainly have developed skills over the past two years to navigate the pandemic. The fatigue of having to navigate it for 2+ years will require us to dig deeper in order to find the gratitude, grace, and joy we all deserve.
The opinions in CDP Staff Perspective blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science or the Department of Defense.
Christy Collette, LMHC, is a Program Associate for the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. In this capacity, she is coordinating the expansion of the Star Behavioral Health Providers into new states across the nation. SBHP trains civilian behavioral health providers to work with Service members, veterans and their families.