When I think of the challenges we faced as an agricultural community in 2019 and now what we are facing as a global community in 2020, I can’t help but think about perspective.

We are facing real challenges, ones that will impact people’s lives forever, and I definitely don’t want to discount stresses, simplify what’s happening or say that I have solutions. These are tough times that naturally encourage isolation and internalization as a mechanism to protect those we care about around us. These situations are still going to challenge us and instill an immense amount of stress, but maybe we can reduce, even slightly, the isolation and internalization if we use perspective.

Perspective can be a powerful tool for getting through challenging times. One perspective that I appreciate is from Jenny Rees with University of Nebraska Extension. She recently wrote in her blog that she doesn’t want to use the term “social distancing” that is being associated with COVID-19. Instead she has decided to call it “physical distancing.” In isolating times, we don’t need to distance ourselves socially from those who care about us, we just need physical distance, a little space, to manage the situation.

In 2019 and into 2020 there has been a crisis in the agricultural community. There has been a lot of physical distance — everyone is pushing hard and going in multiple directions and it’s tough to make schedules work to physically meet. Many have stayed connected socially with family and friends in short conversations as they rush from here to there or long conversations when things are quiet and calm.

People are also using social media to connect and share their successes and struggles with others. I asked several friends for their perspective on how they got through a year like 2019, and overall, it was their ability to share what they were and are going through, socially, that helped them. There were also many who both physically and socially distanced themselves for a long time because they didn’t want to burden others with their concerns and stresses. I think that can be a very difficult struggle.

Now, we are faced again with physical distance and potentially social distance with the global crisis of COVID-19. We have a choice to make on the perspective we embrace. We are encouraged to physically isolate ourselves/our families to keep others safe. So again, we are physically apart from others. But we can learn from 2019 and practice “physical distancing” and not “social distancing.”

We can share our daily challenges as we work remotely full-time and at the same time home school our kids. We can talk about concerns we have for our businesses and family members with underlying health concerns and what COVID-19 may mean for them. Bottom line, we can engage socially while distancing physically.

The perspective I’ll be using for what’s happening now — in a time where we are being told to work remotely, schools are shut down, no travel is being permitted and we need to limit trips to places like the grocery store. Yeah, this is really hard and it’s challenging me in ways I never imagined. I don’t want to do this for very long, but I will out of concern and respect for others.

At the same time, I will focus on the silver lining of having extra time with my husband and my son. I will enjoy being able to have lunch with my family every day and playing an even larger role in my son’s educational journey. Even if it is chaotic and means writing this article on my laptop, next to my husband who is on the phone managing his work and looking up every five minutes to tell my son that what he’s building out of Legos is cool. It’s all about perspective.

Abbey Wick is an Extension soil health specialist at North Dakota State University.