Novel adjective. of a new and unusual kind; different from anything seen or known before.
It is completely understandable that many of us are enthusiastically looking forward to 2021. I get it. 2020 has been an incredibly challenging and disruptive year, and there is no need to remind you — it’s not quite over yet. Time will tell, but I am guessing that, years from now, when we look back, this will be a year we will always remember — but would like to forget.
At midnight on December 31st, for most of us, when we shout, “Happy New Year!” it will be more of a wish than a toast — but here is something that is very important to remember: COVID-19 cannot tell time and has absolutely zero concern what day, month, or year it is!
I think it is safe to say we would all like to “go back to how it was,” but that’s not likely and it is certainly not going to happen simply because we transition into a new year on the calendar. The truth is, no one has absolute clarity as to how this will all play out. This virus is, by definition, novel. We have never seen anything like it before. Therefore, we cannot reliably predict the flight path or timeline it is going to follow.
So, now what?
A couple thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus proclaimed, “It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters!”
That quote has always resonated with me, but it seems particularly relevant today. None of us asked, or wished for, a pandemic, but here we are. How long it lasts and what life will look like moving forward is out of our control — and that’s okay. There are proven steps we can all take to make the uncertainty much more manageable.
What we should do now is focus on what we can control, and a great place to start is to double down on our physical and emotional health. In addition, if you happen to lead a family, group or company then I also suggest intentionally focusing on what will help “your tribe” be successful in the months and years to come. I believe the goal should be to not just survive during this challenging time, but to actually thrive!
Everyone has heard of “The Quarantine 15” or “The COVID Curves” but weight gain is just one part of the impact. Our routines have all been altered to some degree and, for many, have been completely turned upside down. As a result, important behaviors such as sleep, physical activity and stress management have also been impacted.
It is important to realize that the psychological toll of this experience is most likely going to last far longer than the medical toll. A recent CDC study of over 5,400 adults found that almost 41% of Americans are struggling with mental health issues stemming from the pandemic. That study was soon followed by a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicating, “depression symptom prevalence was more than three-fold higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than before.” In addition, the authors also encouraged us to “recognize that these effects can be long-lasting, and to consider preventative action to help mitigate its effects.”
As the Chief Inspiration Officer for Naturally Slim, I am fortunate to witness firsthand what happens when organizations prioritize the health and well-being of their workforce. Since the pandemic started, our digital health intervention has been delivered to over 100,000 participants nationwide in a multitude of industries. Not only have we seen significant aggregate weight loss (an average of 8.9 lbs for women and 13.1 lbs for men at 17 weeks) but quality-of-life metrics such as mood, confidence and energy have all improved, as have levels of sleep and physical activity.
Providing individuals the tools to help them build skills to effectively “manage the storm” is essential for any organization hoping to flourish moving forward. The evidence supports focusing on both the physical (i.e. weight, metabolic health, etc.), as well as the emotional side of the equation.
It is also important to recognize the cultural impact these types of programs can have. Research by Optum has shown that “signaling support” by offering well-being solutions helps reduce uncertainty and improve productivity even for the employees that do not participate in the available programs. Simply knowing that their employer cares about them provides a measurable impact.
While we all would like for the pandemic to be completely “behind us” when we flip the calendar to 2021, the odds of that happening appear rather unlikely. That is not a problem. History has shown that we humans are a rather resilient bunch and if we take advantage of what we know will improve our resilience, then next year will truly be worth celebrating!
Todd Whitthorne is an author, speaker and corporate health executive based in Dallas. He serves as the chief inspiration officer for Naturally Slim and is the author of Fit Happens!…Simple Steps for a Healthier, More Productive Life! Todd also hosts a biweekly podcast, In Less Than a Minute, which you can find on his website, toddwhitthorne.com, or on your favorite platform including Facebook and YouTube.