So, you are getting by and through this worldwide pandemic and dealing with all of the hand washing, social distancing, sanitizing, and limited travel away from home but just not feeling yourself. You have not tested positive for the virus but there is a sense that the pep in your step is less than what it was or that the things that usually amuse you seem not to be as amusing.
There is a better than average chance that you may have a different strain of the Coronavirus – the Corona Crud. For complete disclosure purposes, I am not aware that there is an actual ailment officially called the Corona Crud, but you get the idea. The overall feeling that life is just a bit off balance and that some days things almost feel normal but still different. You’re not overtly depressed or having debilitating anxiety but the updates of information and the review of the COVID19 statistics usually end with a deep sigh. Even the occasional glass of wine or beer is interrupted by some conversation about the virus and it seems that it’s one of the last things that you think about at night and one of the first things that you greet the day with on more days than not.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, all of your badges of honor from past disasters like Katrina, Rita, the BP Oil Spill, Refinery explosions, and even Betsy for the most experienced of survivors, really carry little weight to combat this one.
Well, here is the good news- in addition to the Gospel. If you’re going through any of the above or things similar you are completely normal. Keep in mind that normal is a relative term. But for the most part, you can count on the above symptoms remaining with you for a while longer butyou will get better at it and it will help form the roots for a stronger and more resilient you. In the meantime, here are a few helpful hints to remember that make for good emotional health.
1. One of my personal favorites- why give yourself a hard time for having a hard time dealing with hard times. In other words, feeling a bit off center in the face of a historical pandemic and all of the impacts associated with it is right where most of us spend a decent amount of our days. It is really important that we can acknowledge that the things that we are experiencing like the symptoms above is OK to feel. It doesn’t mean that we are in some way less than we are supposed to be. It just means that this situation is a challenge for now. Vent a little more, wonder a little more, nap a little more, and question a little more; but just for a while.
2. But be OK with not staying there. Once you can give yourself a pass for not being completely happy with the pandemic situation, you also can free yourself from having to change it. Take solving the COVID19 crisis off your To Do list. You see, we are creatures who look for ways to minimize discomfort and maximize pleasant experiences. So, if you release yourself from having to solve the COVID19 pandemic, it becomes a bit more sensible to let yourself do and think about other things. Be free of the chains of the virus. This simple act can go a long way to open yourself to the rest of the world around you.The daylight, the clouds, the rain, the stars, the sunset, the birds that you hadn’t seen before. Be open to it all.
3. Here is a small but powerful tool. Laugh and Smile. Sure, it may seem inconsistent to laugh or walk around with a big grin on your face when there is so much stuff going on but trust me on this one. This is a biggie. You know that it takes more muscle energy to frown than to smile- so it is actually more efficient to smile. Find something: a television show, a movie, a joke, a photo album or old video, a funny memory, or watching orangutans. Whatever it is that amuses you, find it, experience it, and laugh at will. Repeat as often as possible. And feel free to make yourself contagious on this one. Obviously, be mindful of the other people around who may not have advanced to your level of personal adjustment and who may not understand your laughter just yet.
4. Another helpful hint is to allow yourself to engage the pandemic for what it is - a world crisis that will end in time - and move on with your history story. Not that we should be insensitive to the struggles that people may have but let it have its place and stay in its place. People often can get wrapped up in having to know all there is to know about the tragedies of the world. Sort of like having to look at the car accident on the highway- you don’t want to see but you just have to look. Here is a secret that is related to #2 above. Its likely not your job to solve the Coronavirus pandemic so engage the crisis; get the facts;know that it is real, that it will have some impact on life as we know it for the immediate future; and expect that it will pass. So, turn off the 24-hour coverage on the pandemic and get on with something else. There will be plenty of time to come back to any relevant issue or person that needs your attention.
5. Eat, Play, Pray, and Rest. You know the saying- take care of yourself and your self will take care of you. Be deliberate in trying new things to eat or places to order from. EAT - Our culture is such a delicacy and while some of our reliables may be on a temporary hiatus, use this as the time to expand your food experience. Do a food exchange with friends and neighbors. You know you can really tell a lot about a person from the food they feed you. Travel the seven continents one by one by different cultural dishes during the course of the pandemic. Or play your own version of your favorite reality cooking show- you make the rules and you always win. PLAY - Dust off those board games or tennis shoes or gardening tools. You know all those things you used to enjoy doing but got too grown up to do anymore or made it a chore to do. Now is a good time to try them out again. Make it fun instead of seeing as a “have to do” item. And even while you’resocial distancing, you may find someone to do them six feet away from. Take pics of your new playful self. PRAY - And while you’re doing things deliberately- work a couple of practical prayers into the mix. The old favorites like the rosary or novenas are good solid prayers but stretch your spiritual self and try adding in a little mixture of prayers that you hadn’t followed before. Be it a focus on nature or history or mankind, let your prayer journey be influenced by topics of prayer that you have not considered a source of prayer time or include in your prayers getting to know some of the saints and or other spiritual models whom you don’t know. REST - And get your rest. Be careful in the process of eating, playing, and praying that you leave time for a few good mid-day siestas and some early to bed nights and late to rise days. Sleep is such a distinct behavior of ours that on this one be cautious about changing what works but be open to adjusting what does not. Someone recently shared with me that last year laying on the couch when the neighbors were out was seen as lazy and antisocial and this year it is seen as responsible distancing. Go figure. Rest sustains us; good rest energizes us; and peaceful rest strengthens us.
So, there you have a quick review of the Corona Crud and some ideas to cope with it. I most encourage readers to rip it apart, write your own version of the crud symptoms and the helpful hints to cope with it. Afterall, you are the expert. And as we often need to be reminded-
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
This, too, shall pass. You know this because this is not where our story ends.
God Bless You.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.