How I Found Gratefulness and Remained Effective in the Midst of the Pandemic

In early March, the pandemic felt like something far away, affecting mostly Europe, and Italy, in particular, where my husband’s family lives and two of his schoolmates succumbed to the disease.

I was living at the time in Saudi Arabia and expecting to return to the US at the end of March, after 5 years. Then the Saudi government began to impose increasingly tougher restrictions to limit the transmission of COVID.

First, the causeway to go to Bahrain, the place where many traveled on weekends for  a change of scenery from the routine of work and home-life, was blocked. Next, other activities such as having dinner with friends, shopping, and taking walks were strongly discouraged and curtailed.

In spite of the logic behind the restrictions, I felt the gloom of everyone around me. At around the same time, a project that I had dreamed about executing since I had arrived finally was launched Feb 27th. Now the pandemic threatened to shut down its tenuous foundation. How would I be able to safeguard it? The project had a home, at last, but needed me to reinforce in plain words to its staff and get their buy of its vision and mission so that it could become sustainable, once I departed.

In spite of the news of people getting infected, it became clear, however, that compared to other countries, the early government intervention seemed to have been successful in containing the pandemic.

As people began working virtually, I found out that instead of just being able to talk to my children on a weekend, I could catch them almost daily.  I could reach one of my children, who is disabled, through his care provider in the house, because of their limited activity.  I could be on the phone with another child living alone and feeling lonely, keeping her company while she had lunch and I had dinner. I could even speak more regularly with my oldest daughter and my two very young and lively grandchildren, who mostly ran around and smiled for me.  Each day, when I woke up, I would look forward to seeing pictures or short video clips that had arrived on the family WhatsApp.

As one week merged into another, since the pandemic seemed to have raised the emotions, pressure, and unease, I had more coaching to do for those in leadership requiring support to help them figure out their next steps.

Instead of being a victim of the pandemic, I felt grateful for all that was happening to me.  Graced with nothing to do socially, I could focus on my work, coaching, which energized me.  Being “stuck” in Saudi Arabia longer than planned (I did not leave until the end of June) because of the pandemic was mitigated by my ability to speak more often with my family and continue my work.

I had the chance to strengthen the vocational center for young adults with disability I created.   I made sure that we changed our habits to comply with safeguarding clients’ and staffs’ health and safety by using social distancing and cleaning more often than we had been accustomed to.  We committed ourselves to incorporate the new way of life into our routine. It was challenging to work around life’s circumstances and maintain committed.

On all accounts I felt grateful that I had not had much to distract me from what I needed to do, while learning some key lessons that I am adhering to back home:

  1. I prioritize what is important and place what needs to be done into my daily schedule, focusing on the goals. Small steps are fine, as long as I continue to move forward.
  2. I block off time for the important tasks and let others know when I do, so that they can help me by not interrupting me, except for urgent matters.
  3. I eat healthy and tasty meals, trying to be social during mealtimes, as long as it is safe. Occasionally I invite one friend to lunch outside, sitting at the opposite end of our table to remain safe.
  4. I try to do something fun every day.
  5. I exercise and get outside. Each day I take a walk with my husband (and children if they are present and available), replenishing mind, body, and spirit.
  6. I take time to talk to friends and colleagues by Facetime and zoom. Relationships need nurturing, while the conversations provide a chance to reflect and clarify thoughts.
  7. I try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Before drifting off to sleep, I think of what I have accomplished that day for my business and personal goals and how lucky I am to have my health and my family nearby.
  8. I plan an even better tomorrow before drifting off to sleep. Positive attitudes help us to thrive as gratefulness is contagious.

How are you coping with the current chaos of the pandemic? How is life going for you? I welcome your comments.