It’s bizarre to think that only a week ago, COVID-19 was a relatively small blip on my radar. I was aware of it but didn’t think that it would really affect me personally. Now it’s everywhere you look – every business you’ve ever forgotten you subscribed to has sent an email, schools are closing, store shelves are being left barren, and every single goddamn place you go on the internet it is all anyone is talking about. Including me right now. The unfortunate truth is as much as I wanted to bury my head in the sand about this initially, I recognize now that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon.
For those of you who have been following me for some time, you know that I’m a bit of a hypocondriac with a longstanding history of anxiety/panic. Health anxiety is at the very tippy-top of my list so my reaction to COVID-19 has been two-fold. On one end, it’s sort of refreshing to worry about a real threat. I feel vaguely validated in my general health concerns. On the other end, fuck!!!! Y’all better stay away from me!!!!! I’m thoroughly convinced that I have been exposed already and it’s only a matter of time until symptoms manifest. I have the distinct misfortune of living a traveling lifestyle due to my husband’s work and by golly if I didn’t have it already, that child coughing without covering her mouth on the elevator last night almost fucking definitely gave it to me. Maybe I’m being alarmist. I only wish that I didn’t suddenly climb to 5,000 ft elevation in the midst of an upper respiratory infection going around. Suffice it to say, I recently upped my dosage of anxiety medication.
Either way, I’m pretty well committed to the preventative measures. You’ve already heard them. I’ll spare you. There are much more credible things you can read that will tell you how to react – I’ve been keeping my eye on the CDC and WHO pages for accurate information. I’m more interested today in talking about your mental health because it is just as important as your physical health. So in addition to washing your hands well and frequently, social distancing, coughing into your elbow, only going out when necessary, and all that good stuff, may I recommend you add the following behaviors:
- Download some books. Since the only thing on the internet that has yet to be tainted by COVID-19 is Pinterest, I’ve found myself longing for entertainment that is completely and utterly removed from what is going on out in the world right now. It’s a great time to go through your list of things you’ve been meaning to read or if you need a recommendation, check out The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks. It’s the greatest series since Harry Potter. I’m being 100% serious.
- Work on that hobby you never have time for. I have a box full of yarn that is going to get my love and attention the next few weeks as I improve my crocheting skills. Do you have any paint, beads, or other craft supplies lying around that you’ve been meaning to get to? Now is the time! Having a creative outlet for stress is so, so important.
- Learn something new. Take an online course, download a language app, dust off that manual you’ve literally never cracked open, play the instrument you bought and then promptly forgot. This can be the perfect time to add a new skill you’ve always wanted to learn.
- Re-watch a beloved TV series. I’m cooking my way through The Good Place upon the recommendation of a friend. Try to laugh as much as you can. We still have to keep on living, after all.
- Try new recipes. If you’re stocked up, you can try and get creative with the items you have in your pantry. If you’re like me and don’t really have the luxury of stockpiling food, find some recipes and get a Shipt shopper to hook you up. It’s better to have delivery people get groceries because it limits the amount of people going to the store and theoretically limits exposure and risk of spreading illness. Speaking of which…
To Give You A Feeling Of Control
- Help your community. If you’re young, healthy, and don’t have elderly or other at-risk people at home you can possibly infect, I encourage you to maybe consider reaching out to your neighbors and seeing if they need anything from the store. Check out the app NextDoor, contact a local church, or just knock on your next door neighbor’s door. Or donate blood. I’ve gotten two emails from different cities I’ve been in that are already calling for extra blood donations. It’s not that COVID-19 is going to cause a lot of people to need blood transfusions, it’s that people are afraid of potentially exposing themselves and therefore they’re getting less donations than usual. If you’re capable of doing so, I recommend you help out however you can. These are the times that we really rely on one another as fellow humans. This is what I would be doing if I didn’t have hypertension and intense anxiety.
- Contact your senators. Urge your senators to vote for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act WITHOUT AMENDMENTS. This will expand sick leave, unemployment benefits, and testing. It has passed in the House but at the time of writing, the Senate has yet to vote on it. It’s likely that they will vote on it today, Monday, March 16th. If you’re in Michigan, you can contact Senator Debbie Stabenow at 1-202-224-4822 and Senator Gary Peters at 1-202-224-6221. They’re both Democrats so I highly doubt they’ll vote against it but it may make you feel better to call anyway. Side note: if you’re feeling really feisty, read up on the 40 dickheads in the House who voted against the Response Act and vote their fucking asses out of office. The spineless twerp who just voted “Present” was Michigan’s very own Justin Amash; he’s still on my shitlist, (and for my Grand Rapids people, this is your district representative who is up for re-election this fall, FYI).
- Clean the ever-loving fuck out of your house. Even if you don’t have disinfectant, you probably have some kind of soap or cleaner. Why not spring clean early? COVID-19 isn’t about to spontaneously manifest on your window sill but personally, cleaning gives me a sense of control over my life that few other things do.
- Video call your friends and family. Traveling for work means I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the video call life. I use Facebook video chat for my besties and Google Duo for my mom. There’s so many different apps that make this possible, it doesn’t matter what one you try. It might feel weird at first to ask someone if they want to video chat but it’s the best kind of human interaction we can get remotely so give it a shot.
- Check out a VoIP application. Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Voice, or Discord are all different ways that you can chat over the internet instead of just over the phone. I’m a big fan of Discord, and if you cruise your favorite subreddit, I’ll bet you can find a new Discord server for your interests. Or start one with your friends! It’s great to be able to chat while gaming (that was the original intention of Discord), but you can use their voice chat for watching movies together, virtual meetings, or just chilling while you browse the internet.
- Try a multi-player game. Even if you’re not a traditional gamer, there’s so many games out there for so many different skill levels and interests that you can almost definitely find a game you’ll like. Shit, just get Tabletop Simulator and have a virtual board game night with your buds. They’ve got all the classics like Monopoly and Yahtzee but lots of other obscure games as well. Maybe try something lowkey like Terraria if you’re not a board game person. Or try a new MMO. The internet is your oyster, as they say.
- Meditate. I mean, you had to know this was coming, right? If you’re not sure what kind of meditation is right for you, check out this article really quick. It’s really fascinating – they’ve done brain scans and more or less figured out how different meditation techniques affect our mental state. Or read my posts on meditation. Try five minutes a day for a week, then up it if you’re feeling it. If not, I won’t take it personally. But giving it an honest chance by sitting every day for seven days straight might make you realize you kinda like it.
- Find what self care looks like to you. Not everyone is a bubble bath person, as difficult as I find that to believe. Some people would rather groom their body hair meticulously or organize their spices. Whatever brings you peace, do it. I’ll still be going for walks since it’s a one-person activity with limited exposure to any germ-y surfaces or chance to contaminate other people should I be silently carrying the virus. Even just sitting on your porch, drinking coffee and looking at the dandelions starting to poke up might be soothing.
- Limit your exposure… to the news. I do think that being informed is helpful and I don’t by any means recommend pretending that this isn’t happening. However, having CNN on 24/7 or Googling article after article about COVID-19 is not productive. It’s just going to make you feel like shit. I’m paring back down my time on social media and snoozing certain people on Facebook because it’s seriously all they’re talking about. I get it. A pandemic is scary. But beyond doing what you can to protect yourself, your family, and your community, there’s no point in engaging with COVID-19 content constantly. Which is why I’m going to avoid posting about it on this blog after today.
I could keep going but I think you get the picture. We’re incredibly fortunate to live in a time where there are so many ways to entertain ourselves without ever setting foot outside. I’m going to be strumming my ukulele, trying to learn to crochet, re-reading The Bell Jar, and very soon be giving all my Bells to Tom Nook. Sure, I’m disappointed that I won’t be going to the museums of Albuquerque and I’ll miss strolling through Lush, sniffing every damn container I can, but these are such small prices to pay to limit the spread of this virus. It’s going to be a weird few months most likely but we’re going to survive. We’re going to live on. For today, we celebrate our independence day.