My fantasy as a child was of myself hunkering down in front of a roaring fire. I was sitting in an oversized chair with a view of majestic mountains (we were driving cross country and I found “my” house outside of Vail, Colorado). I was reading a favorite book and listening to John Denvers’, Poem, Prayers and Promises, (later I would include Brahms Symphony No.4 in E Minor or Turandot depending on my mood). These days I might include an alcoholic beverage.
These are times of isolation, fear, and anxiety. I hear from my patients how anxious and vulnerable they feel. How they feel that there is something wrong with them, perhaps they are paranoid or abnormal. They are not. I daresay we all feel out of control – anxious, we have lost control over so much of our lives, very little is predictable and there is no easy fix.
The authorities are telling us where to go, what to do, how to wash our hands, who we can congregate – if anyone at all- with.
We are isolated whether we are in quarantine or we put ourselves in quarantine. Or even if we aren’t in quarantine there are still so many places we can no longer go because we are afraid.
And then there is social media. Social media has inundated us with an overload of information, facts and fiction. Facts and good advice, to apocrypha, pap, and yellow journalism. People who prey on others’ fears, they feed off the anxiety they induce. And this is what we are reading day and night because we just want some good news, we want control, we can’t drive by and not look at the accident at the side of the road.
What to do?
Here are some tidbits I hope will help.
- Listen to the news either from the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization no more than twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. There will be no magic you need to hear in the middle of the day.
- Change the word isolation into hunkering down. Hunkering down implies coziness and quietude, attention to your own rhythm and desire. Here’s what I do – I sit in my comfy chair in a room I have named my cozy room. I have a plush blanket and a pile of books from the library and probably a great cup of coffee. This is not your average isolation, this is hunkering. Read, binge watch, take up a fun project, get creative.
- Turn confinement into camaraderie. Now is the time to reach out to friends, relatives and acquaintances through telephone, email and video chats like Facetime and Whatsapp. When we are alone our anxieties morph into something mammoth, so reach out and share your stories, frustrations and advice, especially if you have kids at home! Know you’re not alone.
- This is an opportune time to exercise mindfulness. Mindfulness is bringing your attention to what is happening in the moment. This is helpful because these days it is quite easy to jump to all sorts of doomsday conclusions. If you can, meditate.
For me, I just got a haircut and my nails done (in places I feel secure and safe). I went to the library to stock up on books. Unfortunately, I don’t have the panorama of a Rocky Mountain High, but I do intend on meditating and trying to help others.