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When Uncertainty Brings The Best Out Of Us: How The COVID-19 Crisis Taught Enterprising Individuals To Reset Their Priorities "To me, the lockdown has surely unlocked a lot of new experiences which we will surely miss once we, the life-thirsty human race, hit the 'fast lane' again. Here are a few good things the anxieties of 2020 made me realize."

By Marwa Kaabour Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak to have reached the stage of a global pandemic, and even though the news took many by surprise, we all saw it coming. Yet, too many of us found staying at home, washing our hands, exploring our musical talents, or enhancing our baking skills much longer and harder than we thought we would.

When I look back at my lockdown experience, I choose to see some amazing opportunities disguised in what looked like utter failures. I broke up with my partner, and as painful as that was, it has liberated me from years of buried anguish, unborn confrontations, and new love stories with my long-forgotten self. I singlehandedly homeschooled two very young children for 22 long weeks while keeping my communications job, which required me to quadruple the amount of work I had to do on an average day. I sometimes look back and wonder how my brain had managed to cope with this much uncertainty and produce yet this quantity of output.

To me, the lockdown has surely unlocked a lot of new experiences which we will surely miss once we, the life-thirsty human race, hit the "fast lane' again.

Here are a few good things the anxieties of 2020 made me realize:

You need not to worry

Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere, wrote humorist Erma Bombeck.

Worry can be thrilling, but it can also be perilous. Nobody yet has counted the times the words "novel Corona Virus' and "COVID-19' have been mentioned in the news. Still, my estimate would unapologetically be once every 20 seconds or so. Despite the galvanised repetition of the term and heightened statistics of the cases and sad death tolls, the world soon concluded that that worrying wouldn't get you anywhere. Caution, on the other hand, probably would.

We saw a day-to-day build-up of uplifting and motivational narrative spreading across the globe, new words on the block starts sprouting on our conversations like surrender, acceptance, and "don't worry' featured too.

You can now open up about mental health

The world was suddenly faced with uncertainty that no economist or political forecaster can put a timeline to let alone any scientist. Our streamlined, Excel-designed lives turned into twisters of events with no accurate timelines and no cast-in-stone schedules. Our dreams started twisting and twirling in spinning circles, and almost everyone experienced heightened levels of stress. We had no choice but to open up about our emotions and we saw an emerging openness to mental health.

Mental health is one of the most neglected and perhaps mistreated areas of public health. Google says close to one billion people are living with some sort of a mental disorder, three million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol, and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people's mental health.

But these staggering numbers have not made their way to the news as much, nor to corporate community initiatives, school recess and dinner dates. And now, they did, we are gracefully weaving them into our personal and corporate narratives.

Related: Building A Better Mindset To Deal with Uncertainty: The How-To

Confessions of poor financial planning

I often hear from friends and family how much they had wished they have saved for a rainy day or just grueling and unpredictable times like these. Our confessions are now out in the open, we are all ready to soak-in the nodding of others in full agreement to the fact that we could have done a better job saving. The result is a new generation of financially-wise people.

New values

We all have our set of values. Society and the media have given prominence to certain ones and this have forced us to choose those that reflect success, power and influence. People were rushing to become affluent by building a social status which is then backed up by physical matters and financial abundance. The lockdown took us inwards and we soon realized what a beautiful world it can be without what is accredited outside of us. Many I know have arrived at new sets of values that are a lot more original to our true selves.

Supporting the homegrown

There is no denial that SMEs and startups were majority hit by the pandemic. Business owners were worn-out and depleted of liquidity and sales. Dreams of what was meant to be were shattered. Everyone got their own far share of sense of loss, and in a span of weeks, everyone was more interested in supporting the communities of small business owners. The gesture was then adopted by giant social media platforms. Instagram launched its "support small business' stick which allowed its users to promote and show their admiration for the small businesses they are supporting. This has brought in a new virtual sense of community across the globe.

In the end, we all saw the best coming through…

The eerie pandemic brought to us a new lens in which we view life. With the increase in the awareness of opening to our shortcomings, our inward journey, of taking good care of ourselves, a lot is changing. Health and well-being, mindfulness, financial fitness and finding thyself in the avenues of art, music, literature, cooking, gluten-free and vegan living, and having dinner with family behind a screen is simply the best we could have achieved, perhaps this uncertainty brought the best of us.

Related: Finding Joy In The Art Of Doing Nothing

Marwa Kaabour

Head of Marketing and Communication, Al Masaood Group

Marwa Kaabour was appointed Head of Marketing and Communication at the Al Masaood Group in 2018. She was selected as the Best Leader in the Group in 2019.

Marwa is a marketing and communications expert whose expertise lies in establishing and leading marketing and communication functions. Marwa’s 20 years of experience span many specializations such as strategic management, personal branding, media relations, creative messaging, brand management, and growth marketing.

Marwa’s rich marketing experience spans several industries, including Airlines, Banking, FMCGs, F&B, Automotive, manufacturing, construction and power generation. Her contributions are evident in delivering services to a broad spectrum of global and regional brands such as Volvo Penta, MTU, Nissan, Al Hilal Bank, Nestle, Kraft, Emirates Airline, Pizza Hut, entities that fall under the Government of Abu Dhabi.

The early days of her career were with the best and most awarded advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett and Impact BBDO. Marwa then moved to the Client side and worked in the capacity of marketing and communication.  

Marwa holds an MBA from the American University of Sharjah and Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems (with honours) from the same university. Marwa is a Certified Sustainability Marketer, with an accreditation from the Center for Sustainability Excellence and a Certified Digital Marketer from the Institute of Digital Marketing in Ireland.  Marwa is a frequent lecturer at Abu Dhabi University on the topics of communications and CSR.

Marwa, an advocate of health and financial literacy, Marwa often blogs about the topics of CSR and brand’s higher purpose. She is a member of the Marketing Society, UAE Chapter, frequently published articles. 

Marwa was named as one of LinkedIn’s Most Engaged Marketers in 2014 and was selected as the UAE’s ‘Highly Commended Female Marketing Leader’ by the Women in Marketing Institution in London in 2018. Marwa was named the winner of Al Masaood’s ‘Best Leader Award’ and ‘ Best New Department Award’ in 2018.

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