Reality check

Despite restrictions, it’s vital to find ways to stay socially connected

By Barbara Pierce

COVID-19 masksFinding calm in this pandemic storm is the challenge of the moment.

While COVID-19 has dissipated in terms of the number of positive cases and deaths associated with it, the dark reality of the “new normal” is setting in.

Essentially, the “new normal” means a previously unusual occurrence that has become commonplace.

Yes, it’s a stressful time; painful, but it’s only for the short run and essential to saving lives and getting this COVID-19 eliminated.

Humans are sociable creatures. We’re wired to need frequent contact with each other, and that’s what makes this so difficult.

Suggestions that may help:

— Get into a routine: Our brain loves routine. Our brain thrives on routine.

Routines let our brain know all is well and we can continue as normal. Creating a structure to your day can focus your mind.

Days blend together when the things that used to distinguish them is missing. Fight against the blurring of the days by having a routine.

When you don’t have a routine, it can reduce your motivation to do those things you still need to do. It becomes a downward spiral.

For those still out of work or adhering to stay-at-home work orders, perhaps it would be advisable to get up a bit later in the morning, but set a time to be up and functioning. Shower. Dress. Eat breakfast. As you sip your coffee, review what you’re going to do today, if you haven’t already planned your day.

“It’s easy to fall into a lazy routine,” said college student Rachel Chang online. “For the most part, I believe I have a good routine down. I typically start off my days at the same time as I would if I were still at school. I get in a healthy breakfast to start my day off right. I’m dead set on not procrastinating my work, considering there’s really nothing better for me to do trapped inside my house. After I get most of my work done, I make sure I’m taking time to stay active. I find that working out in my back yard feels especially good for my well-being.”

Scheduling your day means planning for the things you need to do, then adding a few activities that you enjoy.

— Do something productive: There is so much benefit to doing something meaningful, something with a purpose. Viktor Frankl survived life in a concentration camp. His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” shares his experiences. The message: The difference between those who lived and those who died came down to one thing: meaning. Those who found meaningful things to do even in those horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not.

Keep brain in gear

Our brain does best when we give it something to be absorbed in.

You’re fortunate if you’re working from home. Add some things you really enjoy.

For Dennis Osborne of Floyd, Oneida County Master Gardener Program volunteer, it’s gardening.

“Gardening is something to do that keeps me occupied in a positive sense,” he explained. “I feel useful; I’m creating healthy food and beautiful flowers for my family and friends.”

His wife Karen Osborne is making masks that she contributes to hospital staff and friends. “I have fun doing it; I’m thrilled to be part of the process,” she said. “I love to sew, and I can make a difference.”

Reach out to those who are especially isolated, like the elderly. Consider making phone calls to strangers who would benefit from talking to someone.

Find a way to connect with others.

Reach out to your friends and family in virtual ways or by phone. If you can, use video — seeing someone face-to-face increases your feelings of connection. Consider setting up a family chat or having regular video meetings with co-workers.

— Get moving, preferably outside: This is a beautiful time of year; get outside and enjoy it. Pull weeds in your garden; watch the birds; walk or ride your bike. It takes off the edginess that erupts from time to time.

Getting outside puts things in perspective. The earth will still be here; the trees, birds, squirrels, and clouds in the sky.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars,” an old Persian proverb, applies now.

Stay calm and carry on. We’ll come through on the other side.

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