I realized this morning that I’m having a much harder time adjusting to the Spring Forward time change than ever before. And then it occurred to me that it’s not the time change… it’s EVERYTHING! People in this country today, from infants to elders, have never experienced an event so far-reaching and life-changing as what the World Health Organization now calls a “pandemic.” Regardless of what they choose to call it or how they choose to categorize it (including time-worn or currently popular conspiracy theories) it just adds fuel to the fire of worry and uncertainty burning inside us on a daily basis.
So how shall we weather this particular storm?
The same way we have weathered the past storms in our lives. We’ve survived childbirth, marriage, divorce, unruly kids, tummy flu, schoolyard bullies, single parenthood, military deployment, toxic work environments, crazy politicians, marital infidelity, old age, etc. etc. etc. If we have any experience at all, it’s experience in steering our little ships of state through choppy waters, and this is not really that different.
Here is some excellent, practical advice on how to deal with the stress created by COVID-19 in an already stressful environment.
The Corona virus (COVID-19) has certainly got us all
up and running around in various stages of proactivity, reactivity, and
out-and-out panic. What to do? We’ve dealt with SARS, the bird flu, and
various other iterations of the “common cold” virus. So why is everyone so concerned about this particular
Sparing you all my
favorite conspiracy theories, there are some good sources of information on
what to do, what not to do, and how to keep calm in the midst of it. One of the most comprehensive so far is New
Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich’s website, which provides links to practically
every source of information, new and old, from visiting a relative in a managed
care facility to global travel.
Letter forwarded by Dr. Howard Schwartz (Santa Fe NM) to his mailing list on 3/1/2020:
> Dear Family and Friends, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. > > The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread by mid to late March and April. > > Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.: > > 1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc. > > 2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove. > > 3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors. > > 4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts. > > 5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been. > > 6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands. > > 7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more! > > What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US: > > 1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. > > Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs). The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth. > > 2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth. > > 3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective. > > 4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available. > > I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available. > > I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. Good luck to all of us, Dad/Jim. > > James Robb, MD FCAP”
Now, having read these two articles, how do you feel? In my mind, and in the words of young Adam Avin who teaches mindfulness to children through his program and website, Wuf Shanti, the best advice is to “think well to be well.”
Follow sensible preventative guidelines (some of Dr. Robb’s are sensible and some seem a bit over the top), stay home when you don’t feel well, get a good sleep, and as stated in the Huffington Post article, take a break from the news and social media.
I find it’s helpful to listen to lively music while cooking dinner and either read or watch a funny or romantic movie (my husband calls them “chick flicks”) afterwards. I’ve stopped checking my news feed during breakfast (which definitely improves both taste and digestion). A nice long walk provides perspective and helps restore peace of mind. When talking to clients or friends who are feeling anxious I try to be as calm and positive as possible– which calms me too. When triggered by a news report or other source of upsetting information, I stop, take a couple of deep breaths, and ask myself the following questions:
Is this happening to me or to someone I know?
Is this happening here? Now?
Is there anything I can do about this right now?
If the answer to these three questions is “no,” then I simply turn the whole thing over to Spirit and get on with my day. The important thing to remember is this:
It’ll all be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.