The United States of America (like much of the rest of the world) is currently experiencing a rather unique event in its history: the voluntary shutdown of most of society to combat an infectious disease. Businesses have closed, institutions have shut down, and millions of people have either voluntarily stopped going to work or lost their jobs as a result of the collective effort to curb the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. As some states, localities, and organizations have begun the process of opening back up, a debate is raging about what should be done moving forward.
Many want to speed up the reopening of society to head off any further damage to the economy and get people back to work. They argue that ending the lockdown as soon as possible will benefit society by saving jobs, restoring some of the wealth lost since the crisis began, and improving the quality of life for individuals who are at low risk of dying of COVID-19. Many others argue that the lockdowns have been effective and that lifting them too soon will cause a spike in infections. They fear that quickly reopening will pose a major public health risk and wipe out many of the gains made in “flattening the curve” by weeks of sheltering in place and social distancing.
No matter which side of this debate you are on, there are some benefits to sheltering in place that we can all use to our advantage while awaiting the reopening of society. Of course, if you have been deemed an essential employee or if you had been working from home, you may find that you are actually busier than you were when this all began. On the other hand, you may be one of those millions of people who has extra time to spend these days. If so, what should be done with it? Rather than spending hours upon hours binge watching your favorite programs, you may want to consider using this time to improve yourself or your situation in the following ways:
- Engage in personal and/or professional growth opportunities. Begin reading self-improvement books that will help you develop the types of characteristics you desire to cultivate within yourself. Take courses or seek outside instruction that will help you sharpen your job skills. Consult a career or life coach about how to better attain personal or professional satisfaction. Having the time to step back and reevaluate where you are personally and professionally can really pay off in the future if you formulate an improvement plan and act accordingly.
- Take a close look at your finances. These are economically unstable times, so for many people this is more of a necessity than an option. Nevertheless, this downtime may be a blessing in disguise if it gives you the time to reflect on what you could be doing differently to improve your financial situation. What productive uses can you find for that stimulus check? Are there refinancing options that you have been meaning to explore but never got around to examining? Are there more economical or efficient ways to serve your customers? Have these lockdowns potentially opened new business opportunities in your industry? Take the time to consider how you or your company can come out of this situation stronger monetarily.
- Improve your physical well-being. Instead of wearing a hole in your couch while guzzling down your favorite beverages and shoveling your favorite snacks in your maw, try wearing holes in those sneakers in your closet. Get outside and get some fresh air by working in the garden or improving your landscaping. Take your dogs for longer walks or go on bike rides in the park. This may be your best chance to commit yourself to those healthy exercise habits your resolved to establish before the new year. Improving your physical fitness will likely help you look and feel better; it may also help you improve your financial situation by decreasing insurance costs and medical expenditures.
- Improve your emotional well-being. Each of the preceding suggestions are important, but you may wonder why any of them matter if you haven’t increased your happiness or satisfaction with life. Spend more time with friends and those you love. Grow closer with your family. Seek to deepen your faith. Work on developing an attitude of gratitude and a more positive mindset. Look for ways to help others with your time or through charitable donations. Remember that the stuff of life isn’t stuff; it’s what you do with what you have in the time you have been given.
These are stressful times, but they do not have to be unproductive times. Consider the unusual circumstance you find yourself in as an opportunity for growth. A commonly heard complaint in our modern age is that life simply moves too fast. Now that it may not be moving as fast for you, how are you going to use your newfound time? Are you going to spend it watching Tiger King, or are you going to become ruler of your own destiny?