It’s been too long, friends. In fact, it’s been nearly 2 years. Sorry for the silence, but we appreciate your patience, support and friendship. Have we had a lot going on??? Absolutely. We welcomed our beautiful baby Devin to our family, back in late September of 2019. He is just perfect and has made our family whole.
And the following months were just a blur – late night feedings, not a lot of sleep, the holidays, and then gearing up to return to work. Layer on a dairy allergy and crazy eczema for our little one, and these blogposts went on the backburner.
Then, the pandemic. The coronavirus. COVID-19.
My head has been spinning. I know you all can relate to this kind of stress. Full-time working parents, who had just started back to work, were then asked to stay home, work from home and be a full-time homeschooler, chef, housecleaner, gardener, and snack warden (yup, this is true all freaking day)!!! And then, we made it through the summer and back to school, while remaining fully virtual at school. I was just able to start back to work outside the home, but then the winter of 2021 hit and we were forced to stay home again. Both of us turned to a consistent schedule everyday to keep us sane, but this was so difficult to maintain. Our workouts were a focus, even if some days, it was merely a 30 minute walk. That became our therapy.
And then even more change as I decided to change companies – for some reason the pandemic allowed me to better understand what I wanted in life. The company that I had known for 20 years just wasn’t giving me that challenge and drive anymore. So I started with a new full time job in the middle of the winter of this year – an entirely virtual training. I learned a lot about myself – that I could make a change in my mid-40s and that I could not only survive, but thrive in a new environment, without my established reputation, my mentors, my sponsors. I met new friends, new colleagues, new. mentors – that gave me purpose, challenged me, and didn’t limit me by my past experiences. This connection was so powerful.
Throughout it all, there is one thing that we have craved, needed, relied on…the power of connection. Humans, like most animals, are connected creatures. We require and thrive in communities. So despite all the social distancing, and even when we grew tired of the Zoom calls, I realized that I needed to connect with my friends and family – whether it was at work or personally. Phone calls, which many find challenging, were more important to me than ever before. And it’s no surprise. “One landmark study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.” On the flip side, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.”
And these were data collected pre-pandemic. So what happened during the pandemic? Not surprisingly, these observations were exacerbated. “In a U.S. study examining people’s experiences from January 2020 (N = 1,010) to June 2020 (N = 3,020), reports of happiness and life satisfaction saw one of the largest declines during the pandemic, along with mental and physical health, together with more modest declines in meaning in life and overall flourishing.”
What protects those from the negative consequences associated with the lack of connection during the pandemic? Personality traits like extraversion, resilience, grit, and not surprisingly, gratitude were strong protective factors. Those with strong personal relationships, larger social networks, those who spent more time outside doing physical activities, and older age were also considered protective factors. On the flip side, personality traits like an intolerance for uncertainty, previous conditions of depression or anxiety were associated with greater risk factors for a worse well-being. In addition, those with more limited or poorer social support were associated with decreased life satisfaction. And somewhat shockingly (although maybe not, given the stressors of virtual learning), those with children under the age of 18, reported a decrease in happiness. In addition, an overdose of social media, although great for connection when used appropriately, was associated with a risk factor for worse well-being, especially when too much information or time on news sources was cited.
How are you protecting your well-being during this never-ending pandemic? My new year will be focused on eating healthier, getting more physically fit (a focus on lifting weights), expressing daily gratitudes and ever-so-important prioritizing the power of social connections. It could be the key to personal happiness. Wishing you the best in 2022!