Sanity in the Time of Covid

To say these are unsettling times would be an understatement. We’ve watched—are still watching—our country rippling and rolling as if a shaken blanket. Mass unemployment, racial tensions, and the daily fear of contracting a life-threatening disease is just cause for anxiety in the calmest of souls. As we watch the number of positive Covid cases rise (by the time I finish writing this, Florida, where I live, will top 100,000 cases and is pushing toward 4,000 deaths), we may think we’ve glimpsed the Reaper in our periphery.

I’m fortunate to work with a large group of brilliant healthcare providers, including a top infectious disease physician. Even so, the information shared by these knowledgeable doctors and scientists is sometimes contradictory. Our nation’s best are applying all they know and learn toward grasping and containing this slippery virus. How, then, can any of us manage our anxiety and remain emotionally upbeat as we navigate these strange, new roads?

I am not a psychiatrist or behavioral health specialist. Regardless, daily exposure to the facts and fallacies surrounding Covid, my husband’s job loss due to this pandemic, and the recurrent mass demonstrations in my county, has required me to face head-on my own anxiety. Here are some tips that have helped me cope with these fright-inducing events. I hope you’ll find comfort in some of the things that have helped me cope.

Focus on today. You live in the present, not the past or the future. It’s not balderdash to say each day is a gift. The fact that you’re reading this now instead of lying in a hospital on a ventilator is a very good thing, so be grateful for this time. Recognize that you’re in a safe place, you have food in your cupboards, a working phone or computer in front of you, and a day full of possibilities ahead. Remind yourself to remain in the here and now. You can deal with tomorrow when in gets here in the same, present-focused way you are handling today.

Disconnect. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, CNN, Fox, etc., etc. Give yourself a break! It’s okay to turn off your television, or at least turn it to The Golf Channel, Food Network, or The Hallmark Channel. (No one has to know!) Check out Cartoon Network or Comedy Central. Give yourself a full day–or week–away from Twitter and Facebook. Hide or block that person whose political posts cause your blood to boil. Follow instead that hilarious friend who always posts cat comics or inspirational quotes. Read a funny blog post. Listen to upbeat music. Fling open your drapes and dance! (You might make your neighbors smile in the process.)

Hit the beach. Or the mountains. Or the lake. Or your backyard. Get outdoors and breath the air. This kind of freedom is free! It costs you nothing to sit by the water and listen to it flow over rocks or wash in as waves lapping your feet. Hike to a scenic overlook or guide your wheelchair along a path through a local park. Bask in the sunshine or stroll through a light rain, sans umbrella. Reconnect with nature. It’s uplifting and energizing, and couldn’t your battery use that kind of recharging?

Immerse yourself in a task or hobby. Now’s the perfect time to take a course in a subject that interests you. EdX has a long list of free courses from universities like Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Berkley covering everything from Roman architecture to video game coding. Pinterest is full of ideas for craft projects, painting, baking, and home décor. Start a novel, a poem, or personal journal. Now is also a great time to work on your landscaping or clean out your closets and garage. (You can donate what you don’t need to charity, and if that doesn’t make you feel good, what will!)

Pray or meditate—or both. Sometimes a moment of silence is the best thing you can give yourself. Strike a yoga pose like lotus or child’s pose, kneel by your bed, or sit comfortably in your favorite chair. Be still. Let your mind settle and push away any negative thoughts that come to you. Focus on a favorite uplifting quote or verse. Visualize a flitting butterfly or soaring eagle. Let peace settle around you and fill your spirit. Allow yourself to smile.

Phone a friend. If you find yourself wading through deep blues, reach out for help. Call the most upbeat person you know and tell them you need an uplift. Phone a pastor or spiritual advisor. Zoom or Facetime someone who always makes you laugh. Reach out to your doctor or therapist (most healthcare providers now offer phone or telehealth visits without having to leave your home) for a one-on-one counseling session. You have a lifeline. Don’t be afraid to use it!

For a list of free mental health services in your area, check out Healthy Place, here. 

How to Survive Self-Isolation: Seven Tips and an Important Warning!

Most cases of Covid-19 (a strain of coronavirus) have manageable (if uncomfortable) symptoms, similar to influenza or even a bad case of common cold, in people who have otherwise healthy immune symptoms. Covid-19, however, is highly contagious, so if you’re exposed, your doctor will certainly recommend self-isolation. How on earth do you handle that? How will you survive fourteen days trapped inside your home alone or—possibly more concerning—with your family? Here are some suggestions to make your quarantine more manageable and—dare I say it?—possibly pleasant!

First, don’t think of it as isolation. Mindset is everything! Consider this a two-week recuperation from all things hectic: no work frustrations, no crowds, no traffic jams . . . sounds heavenly, doesn’t it! Rest and hydration are two of the most important factors in recovery from this virus, as well as recovery from influenza, common cold, and other viral miseries. Be sure to take whatever meds your doctor prescribes, and eat healthy foods as tolerated, especially those containing vitamin C. Push fluids by keeping a glass of water beside you at all times, and take a sip every time you even glance at it. Wash your hands often, and disinfect hard surfaces in your home. This is especially important if you are quarantined with friends or family, as you don’t want to infect or re-infect one another.

Next, be prepared. No, I’m not talking about stocking up on a year’s supply of toilet paper! Truly, folks, don’t lose your mind here. While this may be a zombie-prepper’s dream, it’s only a break for a couple of weeks, and you’ve long needed that kind of R & R, haven’t you? There’s no need to go crazy here. Shop now for the comfort foods you prefer when you’re home with a cold or flu: chicken broth, soups, oatmeal, oranges, etc. And since you may not feel bad for the duration of your quarantine, purchase ingredients for a couple of recipes you’ve long wanted to try but haven’t had the time to make. That 28-ingredient homemade pasta dish, for example. If not now, when? Helpful hint: canned goods, dried beans and pastas, root vegetables like potatoes and carrots, and fruits like apples and citrus foods have a longer shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage over your two-week isolation.

toilet paper shortage

Quarantined without warning? No need to panic! Most large-chain grocery stores (Publix, Walmart, Kroger, etc.) offer home delivery. Pay by debit/credit card and ask the driver to ring the doorbell and leave your packages on your porch. (An Isolation – Please leave packages here sign on your front door will suffice. Be kind and tape an envelope containing a tip below your sign.) This is an excellent time to make use of your Amazon Prime account, because they’ll deliver anything you imagine to your door free of charge in a day’s time. And hey, most pizza delivery and Chinese food delivery places offer hot soups, fresh salads, and steamed veggies that’ll help support your immune system while you’re recovering during this mini-vaycay.

Catch up on entertainment. Now’s the perfect time to binge watch all those Netflix series that your friends have been talking about. And that stack of to-be-reads on your nightstand? Curl up with a cup of tea, a warm blanket, and a fur-baby by your side, and you’re in self-care heaven!

Enjoy a spa day at home. Once you’re on the road to recovery, enjoy a steamy bath with a cup of Epsom salts, dried oatmeal, bath oil, or lavender buds. Turn off the lights and burn a scented candle, then follow your relaxing soak with a slathering of rich body cream. Next up? A self-serve mani-pedi, perhaps while watching that chick-flick only you wanted to see.

Do something creative. Now’s the time to drag out that cross stitch kit or art project that’s been hiding out in your spare closet. Write a poem or a story. Send a handwritten letter to a parent or favorite aunt. Organize a drawer or rearrange a shelf. Declutter a closet and start a box for charity. Be sure to limit physical activity to thirty minutes or so at a time. You don’t want to overdo it while you’re recovering.

Reconnect with your family. Isolated with your spouse or kiddos? Once everyone is feeling up to it, break out the Monopoly board or Yahtzee game. Teach your kids some card tricks. Watch a classic movie—you know the one—the one that was your favorite when you were their ages. (Prepare for eyerolls and groans, as well as laughter.) Over a steamy bowl of soup at the dining table, take turns answering “200 (Not Boring) Questions To Ask To Get To Know Someone Better” from this great list from Women’s Health. Ten years from now, you’ll be laughing as you say, “Remember how silly we were that time we were all isolated with coronavirus?”

While no one wants to be kept home sick, with the right attitude toward rest and recovery, you can make the best of your quarantine while avoiding cabin fever. By the time your two-week self-isolation is over, you’ll be recuperated, relaxed, and ready to return to work or school with a self-indulgent smile.

IMPORTANT: If you experience worsening symptoms such as fever of 102 or higher while on fever-reducing medication such at Tylenol or Advil, difficulty breathing, delirium, or chest pain, call or your doctor or 911 immediately. You may be experiencing a true medical emergency.

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