I do not mean to vacillate or appear contradictory – especially after posting last month regarding the Perks of the Pandemic. However, as the weeks continue to pass, the numbers of infections and deaths continue to rise. We are still unable as a nation to get this Coronavirus under control. I occasionally struggle with the downside of the ongoing epidemic. I thought I would share a few of the ways that I cope with some of the predictable predicaments of the pandemic and hope that you will share some of your strategies with me.
To start, let me remind you that except for my rescue dog, Lucy, I live alone. That fact itself exacerbates every aspect of isolating at home and avoiding any unnecessary outside excursions. Lucy plainly conveys when it is time for the day to start, when her meals should be served, when outdoor exercise is overdue, and when I have neglected to share in the pleasure of whatever meal I may be enjoying. She clearly understands a vast array of words, but she lacks the ability to engage in any highly coveted repartee.
That said, I am certain you recall that I have twice experienced the trauma of contentious divorce. The result of the first was that I developed a repertoire of coping skills. They served me well as I worked to regain my momentum and perfected that arsenal during the second. These are skills supplied by the medical profession to thwart depression – whatever the cause.
I enlist all my senses in maintaining my physical and mental health. Music plays an important role in my optimism and sanity. There is always a soundtrack of fond memories and uplifting songs at the ready when I need them. The calming fragrance of scented candles wafts throughout my home as I work or relax. There are always tulips on my desk and coffee table to remind me of the tenacity necessary to cope with the challenges of life.
Meditation and gratitude are also integral to my mental health and wellbeing. It is clear to me that I have been provided a life filled with opportunity, good health, and supportive family and friends. I not only reflect on those things throughout each day but focus those feelings of gratitude through writing in my journal. I make time each morning to enjoy coffee on my porch while I appreciate the gifts that nature has to offer. I focus on the beauty of my surroundings, the birdsong, and the variation in the angle of the sunshine and the shape of the clouds.
I find my true spirit and sense of happiness and calm when I am outdoors. I bicycle miles each morning throughout my neighborhood as the world slowly awakens observing the activities of the human and the animal world. After, Lucy and I embark on the first of several walks which we take each day so we can explore and observe that same world through a different perspective. As often as possible, I spend a day on the beach with a book and return home far more peaceful and completely renewed.
Still, there are times – especially after succumbing to the news of the world – when sadness and depression sneak in. Sometimes, even with the strongest arsenal and vast experience with offsetting loss and managing sadness, nothing seems to work. I find giving myself permission to surrender to and accept the feeling is the best strategy. Lucy still needs to be cared for, and I still maintain minimal requirements for personal hygiene and daily routine. However, I find at these times, I must listen to my inner self and indulge in my immediate needs.
Often, it is an afternoon nap or allowing myself to spend the day reading a book instead of attending to the myriad responsibilities that confront me daily. Sometimes, I indulge in a favorite ice cream flavor, or a chilled glass of wine as I refocus on the good fortune that remains in my life despite my low spirits. I reach out to family and friends for connection and support. But always, if I allow myself to experience the sadness, it gradually passes, my outlook improves, and because I am here alone, I have imposed no anxiety upon anyone but myself – which is the upside of living alone during a pandemic.
Yet not all of us are on our own. Many are confined with families that need educational guidance, meals prepared and served, and are demanding our attention. Some are confined with partners or spouses that are less than supportive of the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic and can become verbally or physically abusive. In those situations, it is impossible to accept the moment and wait for it to pass. Those times require immediate attention and often outside assistance. It is my fervent hope that is not occurring in your world. However, if it is, there is help.
So, my dear readers, how are you holding up during all that is happening in today’s world? What are your favorite coping mechanisms? How do you fight back when depression creeps into your daily life? Please consider sharing your insights and please reach out for additional help if you are struggling to cope.