One of the things that I love the most about the start of a new year is that the whole world collectively comes together to bid farewell to one year and welcome in another one. We may celebrate it in different time zones and in different ways, but at the end of the day, we are all left with a new year is ours for the taking. Had we known what 2020 had in store for us almost straight out of the gate, we may not have been so excited at its arrival.
On the first day of the year, I had never heard of some of the words, terms, and phrases that now readily and expertly drip from the lips of nearly everyone. Wuhan. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Social Distancing. Slowly, the collective celebration of a new year morphed into a global negotiation of a hostage situation known as Coronavirus or COVID-19. We no longer can view this situation as a problem that they have or a problem that is someone else’s to solve. This is now a pandemic. We are they, and this is our problem.
At first, it was relatively easy to ignore what was happening half-way around the world and to be lulled into a false sense of security that something like that could not and would not ever happen here. Coronavirus was on my radar, but I went about my business, largely unconcerned and undeterred. As the newness of the new year began to fade, the number of coronavirus cases continued to tick upward and no longer was contained to China. As my denial began to crack, I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t a matter of if there would be any coronavirus cases locally, but when. When happened a few days ago, and thus, began a new normal that is anything but normal.
Our company announced that an employee had tested positive for coronavirus and had been hospitalized. This led to the decision that any employee who could work from home was to do so, effective immediately, for the foreseeable future. So, two years after leaving a full-time work from home position in our company for my current position, I am back at home for the time being. It was a lot to absorb, but it was only the beginning of more unexpected changes.
I did not leave the office until mid-afternoon, and by then, the building was eerily quiet, and people were scarce. I said good-bye to those who remained, not knowing when I would return, and I drove home feeling as if I were in the middle of some science fiction movie. I hadn’t had time to process any of this, when I was hit with more changes courtesy of coronavirus. Both of my daughters’ schools would be closed until at least early April. My daughters’ respective spring break trips had been cancelled. March Madness had been cancelled. The NBA and NHL seasons had been sidelined. Pearl Jam’s concert tour had been postponed. Social distancing was being strongly encouraged.
Others were impacted in much more significant ways. Proms, graduations, and weddings cancelled or postponed. Jobs either threatened or lost. Shortages of food and basic household necessities in stores around the country. Trips of a lifetime shelved. And on and on. This pandemic had become real. All too real.
As the media, politicians, and armchair experts on social media provided round the clock updates and commentary, the actual experts’ knowledge and people’s rationality and common sense were lost in a sea of information overload, misinformation, and heightened emotions. As if there were not enough things to divide our country, we have now added coronavirus to the mix. Everyone has an opinion about coronavirus, and everyone is convinced that they are right.
I definitely am not an expert in the coronavirus arena, and like most people, I have never experienced a situation like this in my lifetime. This is foreign territory for me, and I am just trying to do the best that I can to balance living my life as normally as possible with making the necessary concessions and adjustments to prevent spreading this virus and to not succumb to it. While I have never been in the middle of a pandemic like this one, I am all too familiar with the feelings that this has triggered. Fear. Anxiety. Confusion. Stress. Uncertainty.
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have some suggestions for how to cope during this time of chaos.
Follow your regular routine as much as possible. Exercising, journaling, getting enough rest, utilizing my support system, and choosing healthy food are staples of my daily life. They are even more essential during times like this, as they provide much needed normalcy and help to build resiliency.
Focus on what you can change or control, instead of what you can’t. The fear of the unknown and not having control are common triggers for anxiety. In this situation, we only have control over our own thoughts, feelings, actions, and how we respond to it, so, that’s where we need to choose to spend our time and energy.
Look for the good. It’s easy to focus on what is wrong, rather than what is right. It’s not turning a blind eye to the seriousness of the situation to look for something positive, because it is important not to become mired in the negativity. There are still things to be grateful for, and there is still good in the world. So, seek it out, and better yet, be the good you are seeking.
Give yourself and others the space and grace to deal with this. We are all in this together and trying to figure things out, and we need to take care of ourselves and each other, if we are going to get through this and emerge better for it. We may not always see eye to eye, but let’s help each other, instead of hurting each other.
Take a break. Turn off the television. Stop scrolling through your newsfeed. Log off social media. Put down the newspaper. Don’t respond to that text or call right away. It’s okay to step back from the incessant news coverage and talk about coronavirus. You won’t miss anything, and you’ll be preserving your own mental health and well-being.
Make the most of social isolating. This may be an opportune time to do some of the things that you have been putting off, due to a lack of time. Whether it is something practical, like finally cleaning out the basement or reorganizing the pantry, to something more pleasurable, like watching a movie or series you’ve never seen or losing yourself in a good book, use this time to your advantage.
Connect with others in old school ways. Since physically gathering in even small groups is being discouraged, more and more people are choosing to stay home, this is the perfect time to call someone for a long chat. Perhaps, you may even want to write a letter or send someone a card.
Ask for help. This a challenging time for all of us, and we don’t know what to expect or what the outcome will be. If you find yourself in need of support, do not hesitate to seek assistance, whether from someone you trust or a trained professional. There are resources and help available for the asking, so, ask.
This appears to be only the beginning of the stranglehold that coronavirus has on the world, and it may get much worse before it gets much better. I don’t know what to expect, but I hope that you will join me in being part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem . . .from a social distance, though, of course.
That’s another story. . .
Categories: That's Another Story