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How to Maintain Sanity During Insane Times

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.

Old schoolers and Generation Xers will remember that opening monologue from The Twilight Zone, a TV series in the sci-fi horror genre that ran for five seasons between 1959 and 1965. It seems today that unlike The Twilight Zone, where we entered into a “wondrous land of imagination,” the world is caught up in a real-life nightmare.

The fatalities resulting from COVID-19 are tragic. No one wants to become a victim of a potentially fatal ailment, but the hope and reality are that people are recovering. And while we each have our way of handling challenges, my survival approach is prayer, faith, and a sense of humor.

Before my cynical readers start with their “there’s nothing funny about it” diatribe, let me assure you that I know that COVID is no laughing matter. The ugly virus has devastated families and forced those of us who are compliant to adopt drastic lifestyle changes. But I’ve found that – instead of freaking out – it is easier to cope with dire circumstances when I put a humorous spin on a serious matter.

Homebodies might be handling things with indifference, but we free-spirited people who enjoy going where we want, when we want, are pissed because the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID are a tremendous inconvenience. Aspirin and Tylenol cannot remedy cabin fever.

Fussing, cussing, and throwing a tantrum won’t change anything either. But if we don’t vent, then what? We are used to our independence. A fragile mind could go insane.

My city, like several states, is under a stay-at-home order. It is human nature that when we are told not to do something, we feel compelled to disobey. Even a kid would agree. Say sit down. We stand. Say shut up. We speak. Say stay in, and you know where the hell we want to go – out.

But where to go? Most retail stores, restaurants, gyms, and other recreational facilities are closed. (The closure of the gym where I have worked out consistently for seven years has me feeling like someone dropped a 26-pound kettlebell on my foot.) Schools, public offices, and private businesses are also closed. Numerous people have been furloughed and some have permanently lost their jobs. Parents who are trying to work remotely with young children underfoot are losing their minds. And their children who don’t understand why school is closed, but they can’t go outside to play with their pals, are pushing them closer to the edge.

I pray that things will soon get back on track. I won’t say back to normal, because I don’t think things will ever return to the way they used to be. COVID has caused a paradigm shift everywhere.

If you are not afflicted with the life-threatening ailment, be thankful, and pray that none of us or our loved ones get it and those who do recover. In the meantime, here are some do and don’t tips for coping and maintaining your sanity during the days, weeks, or months of potential confinement. Yes, for all intent and purposes, we should consider ourselves under house arrest, only without the ankle bracelet.

  1. Don’t fret about what to wear. You can stay in your PJ’s all day without putting on makeup, combing your hair, or untangling your weave. On the other hand, if you are a camera-ham, you can spend days taking selfies. Produce your own photoshoot by changing outfits and hairstyles several times a day, and posturing in provocative poses. Then, upload your photos to social media.
  2. Do challenge yourself. Exercise your mind. Take classes or play games online. I’ve done both. Being competitive by nature, I enjoy playing word games like Bookworm, Puzzly Word, and Words with Friends.
  3. Do resist the urge to eat constantly. Even if you feel compelled to have food or snacks in your mouth all the time, don’t. Avoid going into the kitchen except for breakfast, lunch, or dinner unless it is to get water or coffee (tea for you tea lovers). Do not try to eat and snack your way through the Pandemic. If you must nibble all day, then stick with fruits and raw veggies (like carrots, celery, cauliflower, or broccoli. I like pickles.). Don’t let sugary sweets become your best friend.
  4. Don’t watch television 24/7, especially if the current situation has you feeling depressed, because you will be bombarded with briefings and news breaks about COVID. Trust me, your favorite programs (like The View) will be interrupted continuously with the count of latest casualties and personal narratives from survivors.
  5. Do something crafty to occupy your mind. Paint, draw, or make a quilt. Read a book. Better yet, write your memoirs. Listen to music or get on WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, or some other video chat program and sing karaoke with friends. If you are by nature a couch potato and start jonesing for the idiot box, then watch documentaries or binge-watch a series on Netflix.
  6. Don’t trip over the cat, step on the dog, or fall down the stairs. Most accidents happen in the home, so whatever you do, try not to injure yourself so severely that you will have to go to the hospital. Unless you think that you might have COVID, the hospital is the last place you want to go right now, because if you don’t have the virus when you arrive at the hospital, with all of the microorganisms in the air you will likely have contracted it before you leave.
  7. Do establish an exercise routine and workout daily in your home. If you want to workout twice a day do it. Once in the morning and once in the evening. Exercise too can get boring, so vary your workout. Aerobics in the morning. Yoga in the evening or vice versa. There are numerous workout videos on YouTube. And don’t forget to stretch after working out. If the weather is nice, go outside and walk for a few miles. Just remember – social distancing.
  8. Do spring cleaning. Rearrange your living space or just clean out the closets or dresser drawers. Have a shred-in. Shred your sensitive documents (personal emails, travel documents, tax files, health records, and other private papers.) A few days ago, I went through my file cabinet, pulled out, and shredded numerous documents that I’ve been hoarding because I did not want to clean out and organize the filing cabinet. Among other things, I shredded all of the copies of old tax returns from 1972 to 2000. IRS recommends that you keep records for three years with certain exceptions. You can find those stipulations on the IRS.gov site.

And finally…

  1. Do ignore people who tell you how foolish it is to stock up on essentials like toilet paper. They are the same people who will be begging to “borrow” some of yours when they run out.

One can quickly become depressed when life is suddenly topsy-turvy, and we are forced to live under what some call the new norm. As difficult as it may be, fight the unhappy feeling with humor. It is easier to sink into a hole of deep depression than to climb out of it. Maintain a positive attitude. Do things that you’ve been putting off because you always thought you didn’t have time to get around to doing them. And if all else fails, phone a friend. Hopefully, it will be someone who will uplift your spirit and not invite you to join his or her pity party.

Life is short. Make the best of it.

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