We’re Always Learning More—These Are the Takeaways We’ve Learned from COVID-19 This Year

Photo: Getty Images/Huizeng Hu
If we can agree on one thing, it’s that the emergence of COVID-19 last year took the world by surprise and changed everything. While we are still in the midst of the pandemic, it looks quite different than it did in early 2020. Tragically, more than 5 million people are dead worldwide, and the omicron variant is spreading quickly. But before you head down a doom spiral, remember the good news: Vaccines are available and free in the United States, they're highly effective at preventing serious illness, and scientists are learning more about COVID-19 every day.

Nobody knows when the pandemic will end, but some experts say it may happen in 2022. In the meantime, people are still learning how to navigate awkward interactions with others, how to handle WFH life, and how adapt to the laws and etiquette of a pandemic. To make this time of uncertainty and fluctuation easier, use these top tips and takeaways from 2021—and let's hope that in 2022 brings good health and good news for all.

Home testing changes everything

Omicron is highly transmissible, and symptoms are often milder than other strains. If you think you might have COVID, you can avoid having to go into public spaces to get tested. A home self-test can ease your mind and help protect others too, if you end up being positive. (Here’s how to use a self-test for coronavirus at home.)

COVID anxiety is real

If you think your anxiety has skyrocketed since the pandemic first began, you’re not alone. Experts say that fear of the unknown and worries about the future are common, whether it be due to health and safety precautions or work and schedule fluctuations, worrying about the future. And with new variants popping up, there’s even greater anxiety around the increased probability of contracting the illness. (Relatable? Here are three tips to reduce anxiety about the new COVID variants.)

The pandemic is straining some relationships

Being far away from your loved ones—or, conversely, being stuck at home with them—may cause your relationships to suffer. Whether due to detachment and a lack of presence and communication, or to differing opinions on how to live during a pandemic and on getting vaccinated, the pandemic has affected close relationships and created divides. Here are five big ways the pandemic has influenced our relationships, which are likely relatable.

Anyone is susceptible to COVID—even the young and healthy

If you are of an older age or have an autoimmune disorder, you may be at a greater risk of contracting the virus, but it doesn’t mean that younger adults or those in optimal health are not susceptible. Think you can't get it? That’s one of a few myths. You can contract the virus, despite your state of health or age, so be sure to follow guidelines and take necessary precautions to protect yourself and others.

Hand-washing more is good (but showering doesn't matter that much)

Washing hands more frequently is an easy way to decrease risk of getting coronavirus and spreading it—so you might have wondered if showering more often can also help get rid of germs lingering on your skin more efficiently, too. Good news is, you don’t really need to alter your showering routine, though a quick tip about scrubbing down on one particular area might help you.

There's a right way to wash your hands

Simply running water and soap on your hands (and of course, rinsing with just water won’t be effective at cleaning them, so always lather up first) isn’t enough to sufficiently wash your hands to get rid of germs. There’s one correct way to scrub down, so use this guide to help you wash your hands more effectively.

Not all hand sanitizers are equally effective

Hand sanitizer is a good solution for when you’re on the go and can’t access a sink. Some sanitizers are better than others. Here’s what an expert suggests you look for in a sanitizer, along with recommendations for the best hand sanitizers to choose from, so you can ensure the sanitizer you toss in your work or gym bag is doing its job.

Self-care matters, especially now

We learned that self-care can be a powerful tool for maintaining a positive attitude and mentality during pandemic life. If you think you’re not getting enough “me time” for restoration and hobbies that calm your anxieties and uplift your spirits, start scheduling those appointments now—let these self-care habits and suggestions provide inspiration.

Home exercise can be easy

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the gym again, here comes omicron. As some gyms and studios close up, home fitness is back. If you’re in a rut or can’t set aside time for an hour-long workout, keep some variety in your workouts and consider breaking it up into smaller bursts of energy. (Here’s a tip if you’re splitting one big session into shorter, mini workouts.)

So can self-pleasure

Life in isolation certainly wasn’t the easiest condition for a fulfilling sex life, and so 2021 marked a year of curiosity around how to pleasure yourself at home. Hey, it's good for your health—since having more sex has been shown to reduce stress and increase levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, which surges during moments of intimacy. (If you’re interested, here’s more info on oxytocin’s benefits and how it lowers stress.) There are a variety of toys, techniques and creative tips to bring variety and more pleasure into your sex life, which you can do all by yourself. (New to solo play? Here are a few different and exciting toys and tips to improve your game.)

WFH life is sticking around for a while

As offices closed down once the pandemic hit, people were thrown into working from home, which can be a hard transition to get used to. WFH created challenges for busy parents with kids at home and for productivity in general. To avoid full days in pajamas or distractions, like Netflix binges and snacks that are calling your name from your kitchen, make a WFH checklist to stay organized and focused.

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