Back in 2017 I started this blog to share my experiences as an expat and TCK in the hope of helping others. Over the past three years I’ve shared my experiences, as well as the experiences of other expats around the world, to create a community that supports and lifts each other up. Continuing with the same idea, this week I’d like to do the same thing but for a novel experience that affects us all: the covid-19 pandemic. In this post I’ve asked our community to come together to share their struggles and how they’ve overcome them during the pandemic.
How does sharing experiences build community?
You might think that it’s just plain old boring to hear someone else’s story, but there’s actually a science behind why it’s beneficial to listen to other people’s experiences.
First of all, it makes us feel like we belong in a group. When people share personal details with us, as humans we naturally feel more connected to them and like we’re needed and wanted.
Secondly, science tells us that sharing our experiences and talking about our problems is actually better for our bodies! It reduces stress which in turn strengthens our immune systems. Ever wondered why ‘getting it all off your chest’ and talking about your problems feels so good, that’s why!
Lastly, self-disclosure, talking to someone about your experiences, lifts the stress of avoidance. When we’re no longer avoiding thinking about issues, we can clearly label them as emotions. Labelling emotions reduces the activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response. Instead, we start using our prefrontal cortex, which helps us think clearly and make better decisions. You can thank my high school Psychology class for all this knowledge!
So in short, talking about our experiences and hearing about other people’s is good for us. It’s not just something I’ve made up, it’s scientifically proven!
What is the Covid-19 Community Collaborative?
Apart from having a super fancy name, the Covid-19 Community Collaborative is a project I’ve put together. It’s a place where people from around the world can share their experiences during this pandemic and tell us what they struggled with and how they’ve overcome it.
The goal of this collaborative is that people feel like they’re not alone in their struggles during this time, no matter how small they are! We’re building a community of people who support and lift each other up!
Just as I mentioned above, there are so many benefits to sharing our experiences and reading about other people’s and in a time like this we need that support more than ever!
I opened up this project to the Little Miss Expat community, and asked people to share a short paragraph about their experiences during the pandemic to be included in this post. We have 15 people from all over the globe as part of this project and I’m very excited to share their stories. Even as I was going through them in preparation for this post, I found myself making connections from other people’s experiences to my own life and empathizing with them… the power of sharing experiences!
Here’s what the community had to say!
Incase you don’t have time to read everyone’s stories, here’s an infographic summarizing what everyone had to say! If you have time, read on to hear what people had to say…
Each person’s story…
“At the start of the pandemic, I was still healing from a recent and traumatic health scare. Isolation came at the right time for me, because I had a lot of self healing to do that I didn’t notice until I was home 24/7, my way to heal was through food, foods that nourish, that remind me of good times, that were fresh and wholesome. My love for food intensified with each meal that was cooked with so much love that it showed through the taste. This became a weekly, then a daily thing up until I wrote a cookbook!”
– Tania @african.abroad.blog
“As a mom to three energetic children and a hard-working husband, there’s often little time for myself. Starting a blog and being able to write was the creative outlet I needed. And I loved it! So when COVID hit and our entire family of five found ourselves under one roof for four months, my world was rocked. Instead of spending my days writing, researching, marketing and connecting with readers, my hours were filled with homeschooling demands and housework. After several weeks, I felt exhausted and hopeless. But I had worked so hard establishing myself as a credible blogger for more than a year and wasn’t about to throw that all away because of some virus! So as lifeless as a felt on some days, I pushed on. I continued writing. Sure I had to change the theme of my articles to focus less on travel. But some of the pieces that came out of this difficult time were some of my best. I talked about our family struggles during the pandemic and ways we’re learning to survive this new norm.”
– Lauren @theexpatchronicle
“Through this pandemic I’ve been able to really sit back and see how your actions can affect another person. At first I did struggle with the fact that I couldn’t go out with friends but in time I realized how selfish it was to risk spreading it to other people. I think in the end I’ve become a better person from it.”
– Liddy @itsliddystyle
“COVID-19 has been a challenging time; however, I have been able to get through so far. To do this, I have been using a schedule to help separate work from home times and activities, with time for things non-work-related. The schedule helps me to keep a balance (somewhat) and does not allow me just to work the entire time. Also, I have added in time for learning, recreation (exercise, online chats, movies and mobile gaming). While COVID has been so difficult, it has given me the time to reconnect with family and friends.”
– Milodevv @Expatnationchannel
“The first time it really hit me that this was all real life was when my exams were cancelled and schools were closed. I’m very lucky that I have such great friends and we have been supporting each other from the start. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed being able to focus my energy on some of the things I didn’t usually have much time for, for example my Instagram (I’ve been able to boost my engagement, create so much more content and post regularly). I would say that the thing I miss most from ‘regular life’ is routine. Recently, I’ve found myself much less motivated because of my lack of routine. Overall, I have loved having all this extra time but I’m feeling ready for normal again.”
– Jasmine @justjasmineella
“We all thought the quarantine would make us more lonely. However, for me it has brought me together with my best friends. They say that struggling together is what brings you together and the coronavirus did exactly that. The virus took away the senior year that I had dreamed of ever since watching High School Musical and rather than complaining every day, my friends and I accepted the challenge and used the extra time to get closer than ever before. Whether it was hanging out in the trunks of our cars or sitting around a campfire, we found some creative ways to be together during a time were we were forced apart.”
“My fiancé and I are Canadian, but he works in Europe as a professional hockey player so we live abroad for 9 months of the year. Back in March when the pandemic was first starting his season got cancelled and we flew home to Canada as quick as we could before the borders got shut down. Canada has been in a state of emergency since then with quarantine methods in place. We were supposed to get married in June, but we’re unable to because of the restriction on gathering in large groups. As we get ready to travel back to Europe for another hockey season we will need to prepare for travel with a mask and quarantine upon arrival.”
– Jessica @jessicafiloso
“During quarantine I have become much better at recognizing what I have control over and working to change these things while practicing patience for what I cannot change. Not every environment will foster growth, but there are chances to learn and heal a little bit more every day. Focusing on things in my control has let me reconnect with my sense of fun, rest, and vision for the future. Though things have been uncertain I feel better prepared to deal with uncertainty in the future than ever before.”
“At first I struggled with a lack of motivation to get work done for school and my personal goals because I lacked structure and felt hopeless about things returning to normal. After I started making lists for my goals and schedules for my days I felt much more organized and was able to get work done. I just had to keep reminding myself to make the most of this time in quarantine!”
– Ember @esentiallyember
“We thought we were doing really well working virtually until we started being able to come back to in-person meetings and realized how much we’d been missing in this space!”
“We have heard so many young adults describe struggles with concentration with studying in their bedrooms – a place where their minds are used to chilling out”
The Expat Kids Club @expatkidsclub
“The global pandemic has impacted me in ways I never thought it would, solely because I was not expecting it to last this long. I have learned patience and learned more about the privileges I hold, especially when it comes to healthcare and being healthy. Also, I have learned you cannot rely on others to make the proper decisions for the wellbeing of yourself and other individuals. It’s been an isolating, frustrating, eye-opening, and new experience.”
– Olivia @absolutelyolivia
“The hardest for me was to loose a routine. Every day was the same, it was hard for me to keep the motivation to do things and to stay productive.
I had a feeling that I couldn’t reach my goals, and I felt bad about myself instead of acknowledging what I was feeling I was in a negative spiral thoughts about myself which did not help me at all.
I also tried to be as supportive as I could with my friends and my family to the point that I forgot my own needs. It took me a while to come back to myself and to feel good again.”
“I struggled with staying motivated during this pandemic. As a new blogger and new UK resident (moved from America in January), finding a job, keeping motivated to be productive each day, and finding content for my blog have been a struggle. Every 2 weeks I felt an emotional lull where I just didn’t want to do anything at all and was wondering why I even moved. But I didn’t want to regret anything. So I poured into my blog, did mini excursions nearby to post about, had to sometimes post about cooking or baking or cocktail-making to create content, worked on my resume while continuing to seek jobs and reached out to contacts. And I’m still pushing through and choosing to look at the positives each day!”
– Esther @thepalettecleanser
“The biggest ah ha moment for me…. Seeing how happy my husband has been throughout lockdown. You see, he is an introvert, which I never really understood until the past few months. Lockdown for him has meant, space, time and not having to deal with people all day in the office. Introverts don’t seek out attention, they don’t look for external sources of stimulation. He is literally happiest with his own company and the company of loved ones.
This got me thinking, I hope when we return to life “after lockdown” we have more empathy with our introvert friends and colleagues. More so I hope we never really return to how it was. Distributed and flexible working has to be the way forward it will work for introverts, parents, neurodiverse people, elderly, those who suffer from mental health conditions, and those who simply work better at night! It’s time for us all to create work that works for us personally rather than returning to an outdated system.”
“One of the hardest things for me during this pandemic was the uncertainty of it all. I’m usually the kind of person who likes to have clear answers and plan ahead. For me, not knowing when the pandemic will end and when things will slowly go back to ‘normal’ has been difficult. It has definitely taught be to be flexible and open-minded.
On a positive note I’ve really been able to make the most of this time at home and ticked off several things from my to-do list that I’ve been putting off for months!”
How can you get involved?
Even though this post is live, you can still share your story with me to be a part of the Covid-19 Community Collaborative. Head over to my Instagram @little.miss.expat or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story, I would love to hear it!
On a side note, if you liked this kind of post you may also like the posts in a collection similar to this called Expat Wisdom, where I share the stories of expats from around the globe – check it out!
I hope you liked this post! Be sure to share it if you know someone who may be interested in contributing.
Remember, the infographic in this post was created by my store Wildflower Studios, take a look if you liked my work!
See you next week!