By Paul Yung

TWO years ago, on March 18th, 2020, the Malaysian government announced the first Movement Control Order. Two years and many MCO’s later, we are finally starting to see the world slowly opening up again thanks to high vaccination and booster rates.

Just as living in lockdown was difficult and required sacrifice and painful learnings, living out of lockdown will also have a transition phase. So as the world begins to open up on the third year of thepandemic, here are some lessons I took away from the last 2 years.

  1. Health is everything

The University of Glasgow looked through the health records of 470,034 women and men and revealed some intriguing answers about covid.

A healthy 75-year-old was one-third as likely to die from covid as a 65-year-old with multiple chronic health issues. The bottom line: Age affects your risk of severe illness with covid, but you should be far more focused on avoiding chronic health conditions. Exercise remains critical. A British study of 387,109 adults in their 40s through 60s found a 38 percent higher risk for severe covid in people who avoided physical activity.

Vaccinations, supplementation and exercise are crucial to our quality of life. We should consciously strive to be in our best physical state.

  1. Self-Care is not self-indulgence

Seven out of 10 Malaysians worked from home over the last 2 years. If you were a front liner, I salute you, you are a true hero. Either way, Covid turned the focus for all ages to small, simple pleasures that soothe and give us meaning. We have learnt that pampering is vital to well-being. Activities that once felt indulgent are essential to our health and equilibrium, and that self-care mindset should continue.

So, cut yourself some slack. Learn a new skill; adopt a pet; limit your news diet; ask for help if you need it. We have made it through these turbulent 3 years to see the value of prioritizing you.

  1. Tech is for all and it’s here to stay

Easy-to-use modern virtual tools are the new default.

Video calls, TC streaming food delivery apps, telemedicine and learning and working from home. The pandemic has boosted the shifting to a digital society.

Watching my 75 year old father ordering a wine decanter off Facebook after seeing an ad, and paying for it with Alipay, made it apparent that tech is for all ages, and it is here to stay.

Remote working is here to stay too, as millions of workers and their managers have learned that they can be just as productive as they were at the office. In fact 69% of Malaysians have said they prefer to work from home, skipping the traffic jams and being able to relocate to less expensive areas.

  1. Restoring Trust

From vaccinations to politics, the world is a more polarized place today with widespread distrust. With algorithms getting more advanced, we risk being in an echo chamber. The more we read on a topic, the more the algorithm pushes it to us; to the point it can be difficult to be neutral.

Be patient, verify facts and then decide. History provides a guide. In the wake of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed more than 50 million people, trust in authority withered after local and national government officials played down the disease’s threats in order to maintain wartime morale. Check reliable, balanced news sources and unbiased fact-checking sites before clamping down on an opinion. Social media has made it too easy to voice an opinion without consequences, so taking a social media detox may be just the thing you need to peace out.

  1. Easing in to the new normal

The covid pandemic won’t end with a mask off parade. Instead, we’ll slowly, cautiously ease back to familiar activities. For all our fears of the coronavirus, many of us can’t wait to resume a public life. When 1,000 people 65 and older were asked what they were most eager to do again post-pandemic, over 70 percent said either going out to dinner, getting together with family and friends or travel.

Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at NYU, suggests making an “if-then plan” to reacclimate to public life. If eating indoors at a restaurant is too agitating, then try a table outside first. If a bucket-list family vacation to Italy feels too daunting, then book a local trip first-lah. Eventually we will all get there. Let’s look forward to a post pandemic life, and not take the simple things in life, for granted.