The 5 Stages of Personal Progress Through the COVID-19 era

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in the lives of billions of people around the world. Whether you are one of the thousands of people that has been directly impacted by the virus itself or one of the millions of people affected indirectly through the economic devastation, there is a good chance that your life has been altered. And there may be a new way of life for you.

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I do not know anyone directly affected, but I would imagine at some point in the coming weeks and months, that story will change. Some people may have severe cases of COVID-19, others may never know they had it.

Some people will deal with some of the worst possible scenarios- contracting the virus as well as losing their job or business. I hope those stories are minimal to say the least.

This point of view is not coming from the direct effects of the virus, more indirect effects. Like most of you, my world changed almost overnight and there is no certainty that it will return to its old version of normal. Individuals and businesses around the globe have already endured incredible blows from one or both sides of this ugly double-edged sword.

In going through this once in a lifetime disaster, it is imperative to understand that most people will deal with this moment in history differently. To each their own. But there are some universal consistencies we all face.

These are the 5 stages I have identified as the stages of moving through this unprecedented time.

1. Acknowledgement — For most of us, we first learned of the coronavirus as it began making its way through Wuhan, China in January of this year. News reports were coming out daily of the number of people contracting the virus and the immediacy of how urgent it was that the Chinese government needed to take action to contain it. In less than two months, the virus had spread to the United States and made a very large impact early on when an elderly population in Washington had a high rate of mortality within the first days of cases being identified on American soil.

It was the acknowledgement of this virus that created the first stage in our movement through this time in history. We were made aware by either the mass media, social media, or our mother calling to check in on us. Regardless of the means, the entire world now acknowledges that this thing exists, and that COVID-19 is here to make our lives a living hell.

2. Fear — Like most things in life that have to do with our health and well being, we quickly move from acknowledgement to fear when there is potential that our lives, or the lives of those close to us, could be affected. There are so many unknowns. We don’t know what the best course of action is, we don’t know what is being done about it, we don’t know if we should continue life as normal or quickly make gut decisions. All of these are valid, and no one should feel ashamed of not knowing.

The fear we experience is normal and expected. If you don’t feel fear, you are likely the person we should all be fearing. But fear cannot control us for long. Take a night, or a day, be afraid, but don’t lose control. Don’t act out of fear. The purpose of this stage is to understand that fear is a component to the process.

3. Frustration — This can play out in several ways. For me, in this case, it looked a lot like anger. People I’m closest to could hear in the tone of my voice that I was angry about the situation. I know that no one caused it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like it, don’t completely understand it, and don’t agree with every decision has been made along the way.

For some, that frustration may look like sadness. Why is this happening? How many people will it hurt? Will my family be ok? Will we be able to afford it?

Maybe your frustration plays itself out through isolation. You retreat to a quiet place and say nothing, do nothing, just sit in the quiet of your home or apartment and live there for a period of time.

Frustration is the expression and understanding stage. As we gain an understanding of the situation and how it affects us (each in different ways), we express our emotions as a way to cope. The reality is, we all express our frustration in different ways and none of them are necessarily wrong, assuming you don’t hurt anyone along the way. Find a way to let the frustration out in the way that works best for you and know that it is part of the process. Frustration comes in the form of many emotions. This is an emotional experience most of us are new at, and with any luck, will not have to deal with again.

4. Action — Stage four is where we turn the corner. We move from gaining understanding and expressing the emotion behind it into a place of moving forward. We know we cannot stay in a fear stage for long, we cannot be frustrated forever, so at some point we must take action.

Action can look like a number of things. Maybe it means turning your home into a multi-faceted home-gym-office-restaurant. Maybe if means learning how to communicate with people in ways you never have before. Maybe its learning new technology and skills. And for some, maybe it’s finding a new job or changing your business model.

Regardless of the action, you must move forward, preferably sooner than later. If you don’t know what action to take first, start with helping someone else. Sometimes it’s easier to help others before we can move forward ourselves.

5. Compassion — The final stage of getting through an incredible life changing event that there is no playbook for is showing compassion to the people you interact with. If you are lucky enough to come out unscathed, remember that there are likely millions of people that are not so lucky.

This is a difficult time for most people. Everyone has been forced to deal with situations that are outside of normal life, some more dire than others. So it is important to remember that the way to move forward and resume a new normal is to treat everyone with compassion and seek to understand how others have handled this time before you seek to be understood.

From individuals and families that were directly impacted by COVID-19 itself, to business owners that have lost everything, to employees that were let go and might not get their job back. Compassion is crucial, so please try to be understanding before you try to be understood.

Together, we can do this. America and our individual communities were built by being there for each other and helping each other get from one stage to another. Don’t forget in the midst of each stage to seek help if needed, help others as you are able, and most of all, think about the fact that we are all in this together.

Love is contagious too. Let’s go spread some of that.

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