Coronavirus: Unexpected emotional benefits in a difficult time

Below I describe some of the positives that I have seen firsthand in both my private practice and personal life.

Embrace the simple pleasure (photo credit: PXHERE)
Embrace the simple pleasure
(photo credit: PXHERE)
COVID-19 is a terrible viral pandemic that has caused so much painful havoc in our lives. Although COVID-19 is not yet behind us, I would like to focus on some emotional benefits that we have gained from an extremely difficult time. Below I describe some of the positives that I have seen firsthand in both my private practice and personal life.
Productive use of time during unemployment
Judy, a middle-aged single woman who worked in the travel and tourism industry, went into panic mode after her boss sent her home on unpaid leave.
For Judy, the immediate worry was financial. However, as a recovering food addict, she realized that her real worry was about her lack of routine.
Online psychotherapy helped her figure out how she could use her time productively. She was clear about one thing: she needed to be around people.
Judy found a volunteer job that got her out of the house and gave her a sense of purpose. Twice a week, she volunteers at a soup kitchen.
There is no doubt that this experience has empowered her. She has learned that she does not have to fall into the slippery slope of depression, and she learned how to use her time effectively.
She was proud to send me some pictures of herself giving out meals to poor and hungry people while wearing her mask and gloves.
One of my clients, Sam, a very highly driven and intelligent single man in his 20s, is between jobs and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
His alone time in his apartment has given him an opportunity to read about different career paths, and even take an online computer programming course. Every day, he notes, he drinks green tea, exercises and then delves into the world of self-discovery.
During our weekly WhatsApp video link session, Sam told me that he cannot believe how productive he has felt during this stage of figuring out his life.
Building self-confidence
A woman I know is a widow in her late 70s. Since her husband died, she felt that life alone was hard for her and that she could not tolerate being on her own for Shabbat. Every Shabbat either her children invited her to their homes, or her children and their families would take turns coming to visit her.
During the lockdown, she began to think about herself and put her energy into many things that she always seemed to put off. She said that so much of her energy had gone into taking care of others, and now she just took care of herself.
Although she does not want this to go on forever, she now feels that she can handle being alone and embrace some of its benefits.
Appreciating quality family time
Many young families with small children are now spending an enormous amount of time at home together.
In one family, Jay, a successful hi-tech professional, was rarely home from work early enough to spend time with his preschool-age children. Recently, his wife gave birth to their third child.
During the current crisis, he was able to work at home and break up his day, to spend a significant amount of time with all his children. Since his wife was on maternity leave, she was also seeing her husband more often and was getting the benefit of his help with the children. Family movie time became a happy group activity for everyone.
Soon enough the kids will be returning to school, and parents to their workplaces. However, so many couples have told me that the quality time spent with their children and each other has been fantastic.
The challenge in the future will be to keep the balance between work and family time. It is not an easy thing to do, but an important lesson to learn that can only benefit each member of the family.
Mindful of small and simple pleasures
A young couple who are engaged to marry told me that they sat on a bench the other day and just watched people walk past them. Since there were not many places to go to, this seemed like a good activity for the moment.
Surprisingly, they discovered that they really enjoyed themselves. They watched the people of all ages who walked by them, and just appreciated the simplicity of this activity.
The young man said that he hopes that he will remember, as his life becomes busier again, to be mindful of the simple things in life that we often never take notice of.
Gratitude and humility
I cannot say enough about how many people have learned to take stock of their lives. This period of isolation and being cut off from those we love can accentuate a clearer focus on what we have and what we can hope for in the future.
Moreover, now that so many freedoms that we took for granted have been restricted, it is an opportune moment to count our blessings. Certainly, this virus, with its impact on all of our lives, is an enormously humbling experience. Humility is not a bad thing; in fact, it is an important prerequisite to being able to feel gratitude.
I think that the challenge to all of us during this COVID-19 pandemic is to try our best to remember that in every crisis, besides obvious dangers and stressors, there are opportunities and benefits that we can realize. The challenge that lies before us all is to find the emotional benefits, make note of them, and cherish and remember these important discoveries.  
The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana.;