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Help! COVID-19 Stole My Identity

As we reach one year of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are feeling stagnant, bored, frustrated, and hopeless as we grapple with the fact that our lives have drastically changed and will likely not return to “normal” anytime soon. For many, the duration of the pandemic is punctuated by great loss: loss of freedom, loss of social, emotional, and physical connection, perhaps loss of a loved one, and most notably, a loss of identity.

According to a recent article by CTV News, more than one million people in Ontario lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, and we can assume many more jobs have been lost across Ontario and Canada as a whole throughout this past year. For the majority of people, their job is a significant part of their identity, what defines them as a person, and what they are passionate about in this world. For some, a job is more of a necessity. No matter which way you slice it, the loss of jobs due to the pandemic has created a large hole in the lives of many who have been let go over this past year.

Not only are people who have lost their jobs experiencing identity challenges during this time, but the general population at large has been impacted, in that we have more time than ever before to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts. For many, this has been a positive experience, while for others it has been sobering and even a potentially frightening experience that they have never had to face before. More than ever we are contemplating the meaning of life, and the meaning of our own lives, searching for purpose amidst a world turned upside down. Maybe you are a student who has put their university pursuits on hold because of the pandemic or because it would not be the experience that you wish for. Maybe you are a parent of young kids who now needs to work from home and balance raising your children at the same time. Before quarantine, we were physically able to leave our houses to attend work or school, which allowed us to separate our various responsibilities, roles, and identities, but now they are meshed together, and this can be a stressful experience.

If you are feeling lost, bored, confused, and unsure of who you are amidst all this change on such a vast scale, consider the following tips to help you get more connected with who you are and who you want to be when this is all over and our lives can resume.

“Parts Of You” Exercise

There is an exercise called the “Parts of You,” in which you take a blank piece of paper and write your name in the middle of the page. Around your name, write out everything that makes up who you are as a person. For example, are you a sibling? A mother? A student? A friend? A hard worker? A music lover? A perfectionist? An animal lover? Write down any and all things that come to your mind about all the parts that make you, you! In doing this, it will remind you that there is a lot that you bring to the table, even if you think that may not be the case right now. This exercise will help you to see the bigger picture, and help you realize that you are still a whole person, despite those moments where you question yourself and your identity during these challenging times. Just because you may have lost your job, or may have ended a relationship, or may have put your education on hold, does not mean that those things are all that you are. There is still a lot to appreciate about yourself, and more to discover, which brings me to the next tip: trying out a new hobby!

Finding A New Hobby

For some, this pandemic has led to people putting a lot of passions, hobbies, and activities they do for self-care or for fun on hold, leaving a lot of people feeling bored, unmotivated, and unfulfilled. While having so much time on your hands can initially feel intimidating, it can also be a blessing in disguise, as it provides an opportunity for you to explore other potential interests that you maybe never thought of, or had the time to pursue prior to the pandemic. People today are spending more time than ever discovering new hobbies, in particular reading, working out, learning a new language or musical instrument, writing, getting into the stock market, baking, meditating, or doing arts and crafts, to name a few examples.

Now, I understand there may be some eye rolls at the mention of trying out new hobbies, but there are many social, physical, and mental health benefits to developing hobbies or new interests. For instance, hobbies can help to bring structure back into your life. For many, this pandemic has greatly disrupted their everyday routine, and this loss of structure fuels stress and lack of motivation. As such, hobbies can help you to feel more efficient and accomplished. Additionally, learning new hobbies can make you feel like you are more interesting and add more layers to your self-identity, and potentially even lead to advancements in your career by sparking a new passion or learning new skills. Finally, hobbies can be done alongside others, meaning that it can actually increase social connections. For example, you can start a virtual book club with some friends, take an online cooking class together, or discover a new favourite video game to play online together. There really is a whole world out there of opportunities if you give yourself a chance to open your mind to something new and expand your horizons! So, I invite you to take a moment and self-reflect on what hobbies or new activities you might be able to pick up this year to add some more excitement and fulfilment in your life! For me, I have rediscovered my love for reading this year, and have returned to playing the piano, and it has brought many positive emotions back into my life that were missing in 2020.

Patience & Self-Compassion

Finally, above all else, it is important to remember to be patient and compassionate towards yourself as much as you can. There is no doubt this past year of our collective lives has been turbulent and tumultuous in a variety of ways, but no matter how lost we may be feeling, the silver lining is that there will always be something that can add that spark into our lives and make us feel like us again. The best thing we can do right now is to focus on nurturing our minds and bodies in any way that we can so that we may come out of this difficult time feeling invigorated and refreshed, with a newfound lust for life.

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