I am writing this column on World Aids Day, a day observed internationally since 1988 to raise awareness about another pandemic, AIDS, caused by the spread of the HIV infection which affects the body’s immune system. It is ironic that while we have battled this virus for so long, we are now faced with another deadly epidemic in the Coronavirus19. And the losses caused by both are hard to comprehend.
Numbers come in daily on how many deaths have been caused by this coronavirus – not to desensitize us – but to show us how present it is in our lives and the people around us.
It has changed how we live from wearing masks to social distancing – and we are starting to show the fatigue of dealing with the virus since last March. Not being able to gather with family and friends over Thanksgiving, not being able to conduct our traditional holiday activities and not even going to work in our usual ways all shadow our day to day existence.
Trying to remain positive and innovative with family and business colleagues as we deal with the day to day limitations has been frustrating. I think we are all tried of the restrictions which continue to increase with every news report. And the tragedy it has created with so many people losing their lives cannot be disregarded.
This challenges us to find ways to connect safely and to minimize contact with others. Some of us are working, some work remotely and others may no longer have a job. Financial concerns are now rising for some families along with the health concerns imposed by the virus.
It is difficult not to sound pessimistic. We are all feeling anxious and stressed, perhaps not sleeping or eating well. We miss our family and friends – we miss our life before the virus. Travel restrictions prevent us from being with those we love and visiting our favorite places – movies, restaurants, even shopping – most have been closed or reduced their hours and capacity.
But ever the optimist, I remember my mother talking about being a little girl during World War II and the sacrifices made by everyone globally. They were innovative and persevered – and so must we in this war against the virus.
We continue to socially distance, to gather in small groups, to wear facemasks, to become technologically savvy with Zoom and Facetime. We have rediscovered reading books and playing board games, cooking at home and dining slowly with no place to rush off to anymore. With the beginning of winter not far away, we will stay indoors and that too may limit our activities. But even getting out for a walk to change your scenery can be helpful.
Reading the paper or listening to the news may not be helpful right now – headlines reflect the variety of challenges from politics to mental health to the economy. It is okay to skip those stories right now for you own well-being. Perhaps limit watching the news to once a day.
Selfcare is not easy but paramount. We do the best we can every day. Whether you are in quarantine or choosing to stay in seclusion, find pleasure in small things – making that cup of tea or coffee, feeding the birds, going for a stroll in a nearby park may help break up the mundaneness of the day.
I have heard from many people that this time at home has been an opportunity to catch up on those tasks we have avoided – clean out that closet, reorganize the basement, sort out those piles on your desk (or kitchen counter).
This is also a time to think of others – check on your neighbors, donate to the food pantry, contribute to community service groups, send a note (handwritten or e-mail) to friends.
This is a time to hang on to hope – be positive. Use hopeful language “we can” and “we will.” Set goals and share how you plan to achieve them. Garnering support will raise hope among others. Not trying to be cliché but show others what is possible. As a psychologist suggests, “Hope begets hope.” When you share that with others, we all will benefit. And now is the time for HOPE!