Staying Afloat

Anxiety, fear, depression, loss, worry, overload, disorientation, uncertainty, exhaustion, financial and many other practical aspects of the coronavirus pandemic are wearing people thin.

No one is untouched by this crisis. We see a range of attempts to cope – eating, drinking, spending, denial, anger, reaching out, exercise, the creation of daily routines. Some lash out at “others.”

Some populations – people of color, nursing home residents, the disabled, impoverished and incarcerated – are being decimated before our eyes. Anyone with a heart is shaken to the core by the widespread devastation we see around us.

We are dealing with overwhelming loss: our past way of life, the threat or actual loss of work, income, food, freedoms, social life, hobbies, personal space, most importantly, the threat of aloss of health or life for self or loved ones.

We know that anger, bargaining, denial, depression and acceptance are not linear, distinct processes. On a given day, there might be a jumble, or see-saw between any two.

So here are some ideas I have found useful for myself, as well as many of the individuals and families I am in touch with:

  1. No one can do everything but everyone can do something that is constructive.
  2. Self-care – you know the drill – is not a luxury rightnow. It is a basic survival strategy.
  3. Be clear about what you stand for – what is important and what is trivial.
  4. Benjamin Franklin, on the eve of the announcement of the Declaration of Independence: “We must, all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
  5. If this pandemic illustrates anything, it is the unseen and underappreciated extent to of ourdeep interconnection.

So, make taking care of yourself a priority – everyday. Reach out to someone who can support you or whom you can support – every day. Take a moment to list all the things you are grateful for – every day.

Let me leave you with these ideas: 

Human beings are peculiar creatures: Blessed and cursed with the ability to editour experiences, we constantly go about recreating ourselves and our world. Presented with an experience that radically alters everything we believe possible, we have three choices:

  1. We can deny that it happened, perhaps telling ourselves we had a momentary lapse of sanity, and keep a grim hold on our known world.
  2. We can accept it, but compartmentalize it so that it doesn’t affect our other beliefs; thereby believing and not believing at the same time.
  3. Or we can let the experience permeate our entire consciousness so that every belief we hold dear has to shift a bit in order to incorporate the new knowledge.

If we make that last choice, we become different people, as new to ourselves as we are to the people who know us.

Expanded reality is a scary business. It’s no wonder it’s not more popular.

“Which Way To Siloam?“ Blaize Clement, The Sun, July 1997

This is the first chapter, but this is not forever. We can do this.

Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN