- Author: Ricardo Vela
As I reflect on how the pandemic has impacted us and how our ways of conducting ourselves and our business have changed, I realize that we all have a story to tell; some will be sad, others will be triumphant, and others full of hope. This is my story/our story (since I include my staff).
On a personal level, I can share that while several family members were seriously sick with COVID-19, fortunately, I did not lose any of them. The loss of many dear friends and their family members due to the virus left me wondering about my own vulnerability and mortality.
My staff also saw first-hand the pandemic's devastating effects. One of them lost her father to COVID-19 after a prolonged agony. Another lived in anguish due to her younger son's sickness, who is an essential worker. At times, we fell into depression, and anxiety took the best of us. “Who is next?" we wondered as we saw how personal the pandemic could get. It stopped being another headline and became real and painful.
As a team, during the pandemic, we have grown closer together. Even when we have not been in the same place for over a year, we pushed each other to think outside the box to accomplish our work and goals. We did better than ever before.
We missed the touch of our loved ones; some missed the laughter of their grandchildren. We missed the lack of social interaction, and the abrupt stop of our "normal" certainly took a toll.
We share tears of despair, impotence, and at times of joy! As a team, we pulled it together, we stopped being co-workers, and we became a family.
A year later, I can say we are stronger, more resilient. We learned that distance is only a click away, that we can express love in many ways. We are ready to face the "new normal."
COVID-19 – one year later testimonials
It started the first week of March as a casual conversation among myself and my staff about how the pandemic changed our lives, beginning on March 19, 2020, with the stay-at-home mandate.
Little did we know that we would be working from home one year later and not knowing when to resume our lives back to our old normality.
Immediately, we knew we needed to do something to capture the effects of our isolation, the challenges, the fear, the uncertainty brought by the pandemic directly to our houses. It also carried blessings and sorrows, anxiety and strength. It pushed us to do more and do better with fewer resources. It was a year of learning how to express our feelings and love in ways that we would have never imagined.
We needed to hear our peers' experiences, growth and adjusting to more challenges. We sent an email inviting all of UC ANR staff, academics, and leadership to participate. Right away, we started to get responses, some of them praising the idea or regretting not participating. Eighteen people accepted the invitation and shared with us intimate moments. Some found love in the middle of the storm. Others found time to reflect on the essential things in their lives. Others were just grateful for having a job, a roof over their heads. For some others, the pandemic opened a dark door they had closed and confronted them with their demons. Look for the emotional video on the UC ANR website and our social platforms on March 19, 2021.
COVID-19 and Mental Health
One year later, COVID-19 has left many scars: 500,000 deaths, unemployment, businesses trying to recover, a racially divided country, and mental health at the forefront. According to a report from the American Farm Bureau, two in three farmers/farmworkers say the pandemic has impacted their mental health. During the pandemic, they were more likely than other rural adults to have experienced anxiety, nervousness, or being on edge.
Twenty percent of the students interviewed during the survey done by activeminds.org said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, while 38 percent have problems focusing on studies or work due to COVID-19.
Young adults have been especially hard hit. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KKF) tracking poll, those aged 18-24 are about twice as likely as all adults to report new or increased substance use or recent suicidal thoughts.
More women than men are facing mental health challenges. The KKF tracking poll states that women have been more likely to report anxiety and or depressive disorder symptoms.
Experts recommend taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It's good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic quite often can be upsetting. Consider limiting news viewing to just a couple of times a day and frequently disconnecting from phones, TVs, and computer screens.