As we keep self-isolating and practicing social distancing, the apocalyptic jitters can rise to a fever pitch. We are being warned by many mainstream media outlets, health experts and government officials that this is just the beginning, and that, especially if people keep going out and about and conducting business as usual, this new reality could last for months – if not an entire year. So, how do we deal?
It feels redundant to state this, as the message is being hollered from the proverbial rooftops by just about everyone, but stay home if you can. Individual loneliness and anxiety are challenging but frankly do not justify endangering others' lives by socializing with people you don’t live with. This is our chance, both as individuals and as a culture, to break with toxic, societally ingrained individualism, so hop on board and be on the right side of history.
Mental health COVID-19 hotline
Anxiety Disorders of Manitoba has started a mental health hotline in response to the overwhelming need of the community. The support line can be reached at 204-925-0040 and will be answered between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Take control of your space
This is not about Marie Kondo-ing or redecorating or buying a bunch of new stuff. It is about turning what is often a fairly utilitarian space (eat, sleep, repeat) into a space where you can safely sequester yourself away, a space where you can imagine actually wanting to spend time, if you weren’t being forced to by a frightening pandemic.
There are a lot of guides popping up online to help with this. That said, there is no rush to stop Netflixing your days away – but once the desire to do something else kicks in, give your space some TLC. If you don’t have plants but want some, ask a friend to drop off cuttings on your doorstep. If you are sick of staring at the same piece of art, arrange an exchange with a pal or family member.
Make your own entertainment
If you are getting antsy sitting in front of your computer but still want to connect with people, try starting up a game or ritual. I am currently writing a few paragraphs a day about travelling and exchanging them with a friend. What better way to pass the time than remembering all the places you’ve been that you can probably never go back to?! I have friends who are drawing the views from their windows and sharing them, along with others who are engaged in epic Scrabble battles.
It doesn’t really matter what the activity is. It’s just about maintaining some kind of connection that goes beyond watching the same shows and texting about them, or drinking too much wine during group Zoom chats. There is nothing wrong with either of these activities, but variety is the spice of life!
Rediscover the fine art of the telephone conversation
The Zoom/House Party/three-way FaceTime apps are a real lifesaver but can also feel a bit strained. We don’t typically socialize by sitting still in front of our computers with nothing to do but mitigate existential dread by exchanging jokes about the end of the world. Aside from the inherent awkwardness of video chats, lots of old folks (at least the ones in my life) aren’t tech savvy and would much rather chat on the phone. In addition to the old folks in your life, reach out to anyone who you suspect may be fairly isolated (not just physically, but socially).
Published in Volume 74, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 26, 2020)