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What we've learned from COVID-19

Coronaviruses and colored dots on a black background. Illustration.

Dec. 21, 2020—The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our normal routines in a lot of ways. While many of us have experienced hardships and loss, there may also be some good things we've gained during this time. What new habits or insights can you take with you as you move forward?

Here are a few things you might want to keep in or out of your life now.

OUT: Handshakes. They turned out to be a great way to say "hello" to germs. If you've gotten used to the wave, bow or virtual high-five, keep that new greeting going.

IN: Handwashing. Washing your hands well and often is one of the best ways to avoid spreading the coronavirus—and other germs. Make those 20-second scrubs with soap and water a permanent part of your life.

OUT: Going to work or school sick. Many of us—kids included—have done our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus by staying home. That's a good lesson to take back with us into the world. Whenever there's a chance you're sick, you can help everyone by keeping your germs at home.

IN: Face masks. Chances are you now have a cloth face mask on hand. Hang on to that. Anytime you're sick, you can use your face mask to help cover your coughs and protect the people around you.

OUT: Last-minute grocery runs. Has it been nice not visiting the grocery store quite so often? Even if you don't plan meals in advance, keeping a well-stocked pantry can make it easier to whip up dinner without an extra trip to the store.

IN: Cooking from scratch. Did you dust off some healthy cooking skills while restaurants were closed? When you prepare your own food, you can make your meals as nutritious, fresh and flavorful as you want. That's definitely worth hanging on to.

OUT: Information overload. During the pandemic, there has been no shortage of news to consume. And sometimes misinformation has spread as fast as the virus. That might have fed into your anxiety about the situation. If you learned how to find trustworthy news sources and set some healthy media limits for yourself, those are skills that can serve you well going forward.

IN: Telemedicine. Virtual visits with a doctor turned out to be a great way to bypass a waiting room full of contagious people. They can also be a convenient option when you need after-hours care, counseling or help for minor illnesses.

OUT: Smoking. If this pandemic inspired you to quit smoking to protect your lungs, that's a huge win that can serve up lifelong benefits for your health. Keep tobacco out of your life for good!

IN: Planning ahead for emergencies. It pays to be prepared to shelter in place during situations like pandemics, natural disasters or power outages. If possible, choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Create an emergency contact list. And gather long-lasting supplies you'll need in case of an emergency.

OUT: Loneliness. Isolation can breed depression and anxiety. And pandemics aren't the only time we experience that. Make it a priority to stay in touch with others. Those ties are an important part of good mental health. If you started regular phone or video chats with distant loved ones, keep up the habit. And if you know someone who lives alone, make a point of checking in often.

IN: Being kind to others. We found some pretty creative ways to look out for each other, even while staying apart. Doing good things for other people can give meaning and purpose to your life. If you dropped off groceries, picked up a prescription or left a kind note during the crisis, you made a difference. Keep looking for ways to spread that kindness.

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