Amidst the upheaval brought about by Covid 19 and the imposed restrictions, our resilience and ability to adapt as humans has certainly been evident in these current times. As the famous scientist Charles Darwin once said – “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.
As we know, there has been a huge spike in the use of online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts. Connecting virtually with work colleagues, family members and friends has become the new norm. Thanks to these online platforms businesses can continue to operate and we can connect with each other far and wide from the comfort of our own home.
Our office environment has now relocated to working from couches, the kitchen table, the bedroom, the dining room, from any location in the county or country with access to a phone or laptop. Coffee breaks, quiz nights, cocktail parties, yoga classes etc. have been recreated virtually.
Now, during the working day online - we hear colleagues chatting about their pets who may make an appearance on screen, or doting over the kids who might interrupt the conversation, looking for their parents’ attention. We see people sharing real emotions about how they are feeling at this time. Colleagues are talking about favourite movies to watch, or what is for dinner as well as admiring each other’s home décor or overdue haircut.
We have the teacher using her home baking and items in her kitchen to teach her French class new vocabulary, UK dance teachers demonstrating solo jazz steps from their sitting rooms, international musicians and singers coming together online to perform beautiful pieces of music – all connecting through a virtual world without the need to leave the house.
This sudden involuntary shift to full-time online communications offers us a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into each other’s inner world. We are seeing aspects of people’s lives and personalities that we haven’t seen before.
Having said that, because of the increase in online communications - wellbeing experts have offered advice on the importance of managing our time online to avoid fatigue and stress.
We are beginning to see a big shift. Work is now revolving around our lives as opposed to our lives and interests fitting around our work. People are beginning to enjoy a morning cycle or run before the 10am online work check-in - instead of jumping on public transport or edging their way into a long queue of cars on the motorway at the crack of dawn. The tea break can now be enjoyed in the company of your family in the garden while enjoying a dose of Vitamin D from the glorious sunshine. Some might even go for an after-lunch stroll before the next Zoom call. Parents are managing home schooling their children around their work commitments. For the first time in a long time, families have more quality time to be together, walk together, cycle together or play sports on the green.
Our routines as we knew them have been challenged, reshaped and broken. As a result, people have space to think, to breathe, to be. We are becoming more human ‘beings’ and not just human ‘doings’. New green areas, parks, walking routes are all being explored and rediscovered. Gardens are flourishing as the keen gardener has the time to tend to the weeds and plant new seeds. Due to the closure of retail stores, people have had to make do with the resources they have. We are finding that enough is really enough, after all. Perhaps, the age of mass consumption and consumerism will be no more.
Alongside more time, we have also witnessed a huge surge in creativity. The supermarket shelves are clear – not of toilet rolls – but flour and eggs to meet the demand of all the keen bakers trying new recipes. Facebook and Tik Tok showcase daily a plethora of fun creative home-made videos of singing, dancing, art etc. to entertain and make us smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
Creativity is certainly brimming at the moment. We are seeing children putting their art on neighbourhood windows, street art brightening our empty urban spaces, creative professionals putting their skills to practical use such as #Creatives against Covid (raising funds for ISPCC and Women’s Aid) and new projects such as ‘Courage’, from Other Voices which delivers uplifting, inspiring music performances from brilliant artists to the public. Our galleries, opera companies, museums, theatres and dance companies are making their work available to everyone.
We know from medical research that engaging in creativity is beneficial for our mental and physical well-being. Dance for example can help us stay fit and increase strength. It can also help to create a positive body image, posture and reduce fatigue. Music has immune boosting effects and other creative pursuits like writing and visual art can also help to bring some order to our mental and physical states.
So, what can we take from this? While we know we have to slow the virus, the virus has certainly slowed us down. Coming out of the fast lane, has allowed us extra time to connect in a more authentic way. We have been re-oriented back to what really matters – our family, our friends, our bodies – we have been able to listen, notice and engage with ourselves and with each other in a more conscious and grounded way. For some, this transformation of our way of being has really made a positive difference and people are enjoying this retreat from life as we knew it pre Covid 19.
As the American poet Tuli Kupferberg puts it - “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge”. We now know there is a plan in place for easing out of the restrictions over the coming months. We will begin to experience a slow unfolding into a new world which has been in incubation, not just hibernation.
This is sure to bring more unique challenges along the way and we will no doubt have to adapt again to the changes that await us.