Updated: Apr 26, 2020
This is not a post about the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Well, not directly, anyway. I want to talk about how the current situation is making me feel . I want to bury my face in my hands and scream....except that then I'd be touching my face.
As the virus spreads across the globe you can watch its infiltration via any number of graphs or infographics put out by every news media organization. Every story this morning on the CBC was about the virus: how are people coping, schools are shutting down, stock markets are down again. The radio is usually my background noise as I get my four children breakfast and make the lunches, but today it was a huge cause of distraction as each child battered me with questions about the virus. Each one looking for a few extra hugs and a bit more time with me this morning, and I realized I'm looking for the same thing from them.
But now they are off at school and I have to start making some plans. A three week school break starts tomorrow, and that need for extra time and reassurance isn't going away. But I work part-time at a clinic that serves the homeless and vulnerable people in our community, so I'll have to make some sort of plan for childcare. Will I be able to find a sitter for four kids? Then there's the new business, this travel health clinic, which is now the poster case for "Plan For Every Possibility" when you attempt a startup. So I need to execute plan B, which is an online educational component of my business that was meant to start in the summer. But the kids need me, and I haven't even stockpiled my groceries yet. When will I have the time to put it together?
Maybe today and tomorrow, during the time I had booked to watch films at the now-cancelled Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Or next week, during our probably-cancelled family trip to Toronto. All coping strategies I had put into place following a sudden loss I recently experienced unrelated to the virus. I have struggled with depression for most of my life and now that I'm in my forties I've figured out how to proactively manage the worst times. Now the pandemic is messing with my strategy: schools are closing, kids are anxious, events are cancelled and travel is off the table at least for the time being. At least for me there's running, which has always been my primary coping strategy. As long as I stay healthy enough for that, I'll consider myself beyond fortunate. But there are so many others like me; how are they coping?
I know I'm not alone in feeling depressed about the virus and how quickly it's changing everything about my daily life. It's hard to talk about, because there are so many problems that are far more significant than my state of mind: people without income security, vulnerable people who fall ill with the virus, small businesses, artists, and festivals with no income. I guess the truth is that we're all in this together and we will get through this together somehow. My contribution is sharing these thoughts about mental health both from myself on this blog and from the World Health Organization https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2. Their list of 24 considerations regarding mental health during the pandemic are all on-point, but for the general public here are just 3 that will hopefully help:
1) Check the news at specif times, once or twice daily. I recommend finding a trusted local source for your community and then
2) Focus on the positive by amplifying local voices of those who have survived the virus or helped someone through recovery.
3) Take care of your basic needs: enjoy healthy food, exercise and the outdoors. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
Stay well and positive. Talk about your feelings to your family and friends. Tune out the noise. Have courage.