When COVID-19 (or as it was called then coronavirus) started rippling the news, I did not sound serious. After all, all media makes money by scaring people to death. I soon grew weary of breathless news anchors prophesying Armageddon. (I always thought that was the realm of end-times evangelicals.)
But then, it did start getting serious. Doctors I knew and trusted seemed alarmed. What bothered me most was how little we did know about this virus. Comparisons to the seasonal flu become ridiculous as things mounted.
Then, after a day filled changing a Sunday church service, it all changed. Local officials said, “No one meets.”
Life shut down. Our offices closed. I now work from home (which is not so bad since I do this often). We have that luxury when 25 years ago, this would have crippled everyone.
Since my wife and I are in the “over 60 years old” category, we have taken extra precautions. In fact, I never considered myself old until now.
After a few days, it was clear that this is a long-term situation. It may take months. Staying in this way does a weird work on your head. It’s not claustrophobic but something else. It’s easy to settle into a vague sense of anxiety.
That anxiety keeps getting fed. Every day and every night comes the daily update. It is the same. Stop your life. Stay inside. Don’t hoard.
How do you keep your head and life together when “stay in” is the order of the day?
Going in, I decided on some basic things.
I wanted to produce, not consume. Much of society now is watching. I decided to write every day and publish a weekly blog post.
I was going to plan each day the night before. I do this when I work, and it clears my mind before bedtime. It also gives me a plan for the morning before anything else hits my radar screen. So, each night, I sit down with my planner to establish daily milestones I intend to touch. It provides purpose.
I wanted to keep my basic habits and routines going. Over the last several years, I do some things every morning. I exercise at the gym. I do a Spanish lesson with the app Duolingo. I write 750 words (what you are reading now). I read selected websites to get insights into various topics. I write in my journal, finishing with at least 5 things for which I am thankful. Daily Bible reading and prayer have occupied a space of my day as well.
It’s easy to let things slide in these times. When gyms shut down, I could not go there anymore (and, besides, my wife objected). So I try to take a 30-minute outdoor walk (sunshine is essential to mental health). I ordered fitness bands to keep up my strength training.
Each morning I have done Spanish, written 750 words, and journaled.
It helps to keep your life upright when you continue routines.
I made a decision to call three people daily to see how they are doing. One of the challenges of this time is the disconnectedness. And I found that Facebook doesn’t cut it. For me, it’s too much noise. Instead, the warmth of a human voice is what people need. They need to know we are not keystrokes on a website, but living, breathing people. I don’t know if the calls help others, but they help me.
Included in the connectivity, are daily check-ins with family. My wife cooked cookies, and we drove by and waved while we left them on the porch. And then there are the phone calls with grandkids singing and laughing. It does wonders for the soul.
Finally, I had to decide to cut down on distractions. I found that staying on Facebook was debilitating my mind. The constant dinging of texts derailed thinking. This was a time to concentrate and focus and reflect. So I put my phone in another room so it doesn’t yank my mental chain.
I don’t know how long this will last. My granddaughter went to bed one night and got up and asked her mother, “Is the virus gone yet?” The answer was no. No one knows how long this goes on.
I want to maintain my mental health and help those who seem so remote to me. In light of circumstances, all I can do is take one day at a time. I have to do what I can do and let God do what I cannot.