We are many weeks into the COVID-19 crisis and it is far worse than most of us imagined. The amount of global suffering is mind-boggling and unprecedented in modern history. It is difficult to grasp the magnitude of this public health crisis and all the ripple effects. 

Collectively, we are experiencing trauma and facing our own mortality. Emotions are heightened. We are normally busy and distracted and most of us think very little about death and how it will come. With the graphic images on TV and less work and fewer social activities, it is hard to avoid these thoughts. Many of us know people battling the virus at home or in a hospital. We are in a defining moment and we each have a choice of how to respond. 

We are in an accelerated change phase and for many, this will mean growth. Much has been written about post-traumatic growth but less is known about growth that occurs during ongoing trauma. We find ourselves in a unique situation and we must “build it as we sail.” 

Grocery clerks, truck drivers, pharmacists, police officers, firemen, health care providers and more have turned into heroes almost overnight. Facing a life-threatening situation requires tremendous courage and with courage comes growth. These individuals are now able to see themselves as part of a greater whole. They are putting aside their personal desires for safety and bravely stepping into a vast unknown. It is remarkable and inspiring how many men and women are rising to the challenge. We are indeed all part of humankind

We are all transforming. Most of us have been required to change almost every aspect of our daily lives. We may have suspended our businesses, homeschooled our kids, or lost our retirement savings. The impact varies from person to person but no one seems immune from the effects of COVID-19. 

Here are some of the learning opportunities I see, and some questions for you to ponder.

We must manage our fearFear can be your friend and alert you to an action you need to take. But prolonged fear can harm us. As this crisis is ongoing, we must learn the difference and gain skills to manage our emotions. 

We must be patient. Most of us want to return to our “normal” lives. Our minds are gradually realizing that this may never happen. Instead, we must find ways to get comfortable in these uncomfortable circumstances. What techniques will help you move into acceptance? Can you reflect on what trauma or loss you have dealt with in the past and what helped you then? 

We must forgive. Our concentration, patience, and energy levels may be decreased due to the stress so we must practice forgiveness both towards ourselves and others. Can you forgive yourself for your loss of a job or decline in productivity? Can you forgive yourself if you lost your temper with someone? Can you apologize to the person whose feelings you may have hurt?