Recently, I sat in on a support and sharing session — via Zoom, of course — on how people were coping amid COVID-19.
As the participants talked, themes of fear and uncertainty constantly surfaced. Fear of sending their kids back to school. Fear of not sending their kids back to school. Uncertainty over visiting elderly parents in case they endangered them, coupled with fear that they couldn’t see a loved one who might not be around much longer.
Fears that we could lose our jobs, the “normal” we once took for granted, our health and our sanity. Fears because they or someone in their families were high-risk, and whether they could contract the virus. Fears of the immense hatred and divisiveness that had cropped up between communities, neighbors and even families.
As I listened, I grew increasingly more anxious. The conversation made me realize how long I had been suppressing my own feelings of pandemicholia. Like many, I have been operating by rote — doing my work, slogging through the daily grind and doing everything I can to not feel anything.
I know I should be keeping up on the news, even though it pushes me even further into despair. I should be doing something at night besides watching Netflix, but it seems like the only thing that distracts me. I eat too much and sleep too little. I think longingly of life “B.C.” Before COVID. When we took so much for granted.
Then, something shifted. As the people in the meeting shared and empathized and problem-solved, I felt a little better. A teensy bit more hopeful. A little less isolated.
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We were strangers who seemed to have dramatically different lives, yet we were connecting. We were comforting each other, even as we each sat inside our ridiculous "Brady Bunch" grid and we had to hit "mute" to drown out the children and dogs in the background.
The meeting took a decided turn for the better when people started sharing their coping mechanisms. They were so simple, yet helpful.
One woman shared that she also shamed herself for watching Netflix, then realized that maybe it was just what she needed to unwind — and that was OK. Others talked of walking more, gardening more, baking their own bread. A couple of participants said that, even though being cooped up with their kids could be difficult, it was also a time to really appreciate them and get to know them better.
I felt myself growing increasingly more impressed by the resiliency, strength and creativity of these participants. One person talked of writing letters — actually by hand — and sending them to friends and family to let them know how much she appreciated them. She also encouraged her children to write to their friends this way, and there would be a buzz of excitement when the kids got letters back.
Some of the solutions were so simple yet seemed to make such a difference. One woman started charging her phone in her bathroom at night, instead of by her bedside. This allowed her to get out of her brain and avoid getting caught up in the latest social media spat so that she could rest.
Another woman said she started reading devotionals every morning and keeping a gratitude journal. One talked of practicing mindfulness by just sitting on the deck and feeling the breeze in her hair and the sun on her face. Someone mentioned “grounding” — literally lying in the grass and feeling every part of her body connect with the earth. Another said she and her friends still watched movies and drank wine together — they just did it via Zoom.
Someone reminded us that there will be an end to this, even if it doesn’t occur as quickly as we’d like.
I left that meeting feeling refreshed, hopeful and filled with new ideas for how to cope. Today, I am going to be OK, and that’s all I can ask for.
This too shall pass.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.