6 things I’ve learnt from the COVID pandemic.

By Oliver King on Jan 11, 2022

It’s the day after the IMA-HOME Christmas party. I’m writing this with a slightly sore head. It’s an unpleasant feeling, but one that has been strangely missed. It had been missed because it is part and parcel of a great celebration. Celebrations that have, until recently, been long overdue. While we are still very much in rocky waters, it is perhaps symbolic of a change in the tides.

Back in March 2020, the Prime Minister told us “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact and travel”. Personally, I’m not one to panic. I tried to be philosophical about the situation. However, the pandemic has a way of breaking even the most patient of characters. I had so much time to think and was becoming fidgety, all my plans were on hold and I wanted the world to ‘resume’. But the reality is that the world doesn’t ‘resume’ or go back to square one after such a large-scale event, the world changes and I needed change too.

Like a pressure cooker, being locked down and confined to our homes has led to an instinctive desire to move and find change. On a personal level, the past couple of years has been a noticeable catalyst for change in myself. I moved house twice, physically uprooting and moving cities to London, but more than that, it forced me to take stock mentally. I reflected on what’s important to me and the goals I have moving forward. I am more conscious than ever about wasting my time and making sure that I am doing things in my life that are valuable and true to myself.

I think this importance of reflection and change is true on both a global and personal level. For that reason, I’ve tried to reflect on how the world has changed, and what lessons we can learn as individuals from the past year.

Here are six things I’ve learnt from the COVID pandemic.

1. I learnt how to slow down.

23rd March 2020 UK residents were told to ‘Stay at Home’. This was unnerving and isolating for many, it forced us to cancel plans, stop going to the pub, stop shopping, stop eating out and do nothing. We were forced to cancel our busy schedules and put our feet up. Like a forced meditation – we were forced to slow down and have a moment to ourselves. For many people, myself included, it helped us to have a clearer perspective on our lives and what we wanted.

2. I learnt new ways to communicate.

Events escalated quickly and on the 17th of March 2020 IMA employees packed up their computers and stationery to work from home. Between fumbles of ‘you’re on mute’, and pets crashing zoom meetings, we had to rapidly adapt to new ways of working. Making use of cloud sharing, screen sharing and ‘virtual’ almost everything. Most of the technology that allowed us to do this was already there, but the circumstances forced us to adopt and stress-test these ways of working to the limit. The way we started to interact with the people closest to us, such as family and loves ones, changed. We found new ways to be better connected, even when we were further apart.

3. I learnt how to be creative with my health.

When it came to exercise, it appeared that absence made the heart grow fonder. I was was more dedicated to my one dose of exercise per day during lockdown than I ever was before. People were exercising at every public park, playpark and corner of their house. We got creative with the way we exercised, taking advantage of online classes. Joe Wicks became the face of the campaign and the nations surrogate PE teacher. It made me realise how important it is to simply move, even if this was just walking round the block or to the shop.

4. It made me think about how I use my environment.

Following lockdown restrictions, cities all over the world became derelict and apocalyptic. They felt abandoned and lifeless. These concrete jungles were dusty and abandoned by humans. Many people had also fled cities in search of more space, many moving to more rural and green areas. However, after months of inactivity, something strange started to happen. Animals started to reoccupy cities. Videos of dolphins in the canals of Venice, bears in Barcelona and monkeys in Bangkok quickly became viral sensations around the world. This felt like a poignant moment, at a time when we were obsessed with our own survival, it served a powerful visual that our space isn’t occupied by humans alone. There is a broader impact, good and bad, to the decisions we make and the places we inhabit.

5. It made me realise that our systems are fragile.

Many current western generations had not lived through a major global catastrophe, myself included. This can give you a naive sense of security. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that, for the most part, there are systems in place and backup plans in case of any disaster and eventuality. The covid crisis opened people’s eyes, showing us how quickly our systems can domino crash into one another. One rumour can cause panic buying and a national shortage of toilet roll, one policy can reap havoc and confusion across the country. The lesson from all this, however, is that our systems are malleable. They are not as ingrained as you think. Policies can be up for debate, ways of working can be turned on their head, and ways of living can be re-thought. It gave us perspective, to step back and rethink about how our systems work, and whether they are serving us.

6. It made us value each other (and sometimes our personal space).

On the 8th of March 2021, schools reopened, on the 17th May up to 10 thousand spectators were allowed at events, and on 21st of June all legal limits on social contact removed. Many people reunited and embraced with loved ones that they hadn’t seen for months. All these events and reunions symbolised a healing and some return to normality. As much as we had adjusted to livestreamed weddings, zoom pub quizzes and moderate hibernation, there is something innately human about a cheering crowd or a pat on the back from your nan. I learnt to value these moments more than ever.

We learned to value what we have, even that 3pm hangover *reaches for glass of water *.