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The Pandemic Petrichor

We are on the cusp of a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is a good chance that things are going to be very difficult for the weeks and maybe months ahead. 2020 has been a difficult enough time for everyone as lockdowns and restrictions have impacted on life for so many of us. It is in this time when darkness seems to surround us that we look for the glimmer of light.

There is a fantastic word that I have loved using in my time as a writer, one of those juicy nuggets of the English language that we take for granted. As a blogger, I find words like this help to paint a picture with the limited capacity of a short series of statements.


It basically means the smell you get in the air after the rain. The inexpressible aroma of the dampness that lingers in our lungs once a storm has passed and the skies begin to clear. It’s a simple, beautiful word that helps describe the indescribable.

Petrichor. Say it aloud, to yourself.

As a man with lived experience of depression, as someone who has lived at times in the shadows with only faint memories of light, I know what it is like to deal with storms. I am sure you do too, in different ways but in ways that are equally dark to you. About 1 in 4 people in this country suffer from mental health problems so it is a common (albeit, creative) metaphor for the challenges we face when dealing with poor wellbeing.

The pandemic has pushed our levels of resilience to new depths. We have watched friends and family members suffering from the virus and in some cases, we lost loved ones under unusual and cruel circumstances. We have had to sacrifice certain freedoms and liberties to make the pandemic response work, whatever you believe about the response itself. We found our way of life impacted in many ways – small and large – that had put new challenges in our path, some of which we may need to live with for a very long time.

Say it again. Petrichor.

There are many words that have been used during 2020 that fail to encompass this situation and all of the emotional challenges we have faced. ‘Pandemic’ speaks of the medical nature of the coronavirus. ‘New normal’ is something of an oxymoron while ‘unprecedented’ is…well, it’s more than a little obvious, that one. I am sure we are all sick of hearing terms like ‘isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ plus – my personal favourite – ‘covidiot’.

So, I am suggesting we push a new term and this one needs to be filled with visions of hope.

The Pandemic Petrichor represents the idea that the storm that is COVID-19 will, one day, pass just like the rain eventually disappears from the sky. And what will be left is a sweet, inspiring sensation like the smell after the rain. We will have lost so much but we will have hope for better days to come.

And now is the right time to put this idea into our heads, as we enter a second spike in this pandemic and the immediate future feels a little hopeless.

Imagine you stand at the entrance to a long tunnel. A dark, quiet tunnel that looks like it has no end in sight. You know you have to reach the other side and people have told you that there is an exit somewhere deep, deep inside the darkness. Fear rises like a lump in your throat. But if you cannot see the end, how do you take that first step inside the tunnel?

You do so with one emotion burning hotter and faster through your body. Hope.

You take that first step knowing that there will be a way out on the other side.

You start your journey with the end firmly in your mind, providing not just focus but motivation for the task ahead of you.

Most importantly, you leave the past behind and take care of your present but with a vision for a positive future galvanising every step you take.

This is where we are now. The tunnel is ahead of us, the rain is beginning to fall, the pandemic is about to get worse for many of us. This is not a prophecy of doom but a reminder that there will be better days ahead.

I am nobody special. An enthusiastic blogger, an experienced manager, a less-than-successful author, a passionate mental health campaigner. I am not a celebrity or a renowned wordsmith, I am not a motivational speaker or even a particularly good person. I am one man who has stumbled across a great word to describe an important message for us all as a new phase in this global pandemic approaches.

Stay hopeful.

The tunnel will one day open from darkness into light. The rain will one day pass from the sky and leave us with a sweet smell. The worst of this pandemic will soon be behind us and we need to start preparing now for the next phase, one where we can rebuild our society and start a new chapter in our lives.

I hope you stay safe and well during this next phase of the pandemic. I hope you all look out for yourselves as well as others in need during the darkness. I hope this blog – in some small way – makes a positive impact on your mental health and strengthens your resilience in the days ahead. I hope with all my heart that we can stand together on the far side of this storm and smell the sweetness of the air together.

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