Embracing COVID-19 and Mental Health

Embracing Mental Health
Image credit: AVTG/iStockphoto

By now we have all been affected by the craziness of 2020/2021, one way or another. The news of people losing family members, their jobs, and paths to the future has caused a collective devastation.

They have been challenging years, to say the least, but there is always a silver lining.

Human beings are the most resilient species on this planet. We can get knocked down and rebuild ourselves, just the way civil engineers rebuild a city after an earthquake. We pick up the broken pieces, learn from the experience, and build a better tomorrow.

The year 2020 and the pandemic gave me the opportunity to do many things, such as:

  • Learn to slow down (not have every weekend booked six months in advance)
  • Use new technology
  • Venture out and try a new home-improvement project (how to tile a shower)
  • Appreciate the positive impacts on the environment from COVID-19 (reduced air pollution, clean canal water in Venice)
  • Check off items from my personal to-do list that I procrastinated on for several years (passed my Envision ENV SP certification)
  • Lastly, be more conscious of mental health

Maybe it’s the lack of social activities or maybe it’s because I’m spending so much time with my clinical therapist wife, but this quarantine led me to a lot of self-reflection. I asked myself, “What makes me happy?” ”What makes me feel miserable?” and “What do I regret not doing last year?”

These types of questions made me evaluate where I was in my engineering career and decide to switch jobs in the middle of a pandemic. I knew the risks involved and decided to face my fears anyway. With the theme of trying new things, I started to study again and forced myself to pursue PMI’s PMP certification and Envision certification.

There are never perfect answers, but questioning what makes you happy may bring some clarification to your life and career. These questions make you pause, be curious, and think authentically. They allow for open and honest discussions with your boss/friends. As you improve your own mental health, you will develop the mental clarity necessary to show up as your best self in your career and in society as a whole.

Most engineers choose not to talk about mental health because of the negative societal implications and perceptions. We can begin to dismantle these ideologies by just talking about the topic in our daily lives. Let’s humanize our experiences. One way to do this is simply checking in on how our friends and colleagues are mentally recovering from the pandemic, the way we would if someone just got surgery.

I always tell everyone around me to stay positive. I recognize this is easier said than done when life has completely shifted into an unfamiliar place. But no matter how bad the day or year is, practice gratitude so that you don’t lose sight of the good that may be happening around you. You are surviving this in ways you might not even be aware of.

I leave you with this quote by Noam Chomsky that is painted on a large mural near my house in West Philadelphia …

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future”

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