Coping with the coronavirus in a shuttered DC

white concrete dome museum
U.S. Capitol. Photo by Louis Velazquez

As the reality of Covid-19 sets in, things have begun to feel a bit surreal.

Cities closed for business, entire States locked down, and grocery store shelves emptied – this is life during a pandemic. Suddenly self-isolating and social distancing are defacto bylaws and every company that has my email wants me to know how they’re handling the outbreak.

The sudden change is affecting us all, in many ways in which it’s too soon to know how. In the meantime, some of us are bewildered and others are scared. The virus seems to jump from city to city and country to country like a pinball in a machine, leaving dozens, hundreds, and in many countries, thousands of sick people in its wake.

While the enormity of coronavirus can be anxiety inducing, it doesn’t mean there aren’t steps that we can take to put our mind as ease.

Number one is putting health and safety first. This may seem like an odd recommendation for dealing with the stress of a pandemic, but healthy people are less stressed and in a better position to weather the storm. This means staying at home, washing your hands, and avoiding sick people. Cutting yourself off from the world may be frustrating but it’s also the most effective way to stay healthy.

Coronavirus: Safety and Readiness Tips for You
American Red Cross Recommendations

In order to beat back cabin fever, I’ve taken to doing daily walks. This requires no interaction with people and also allows me to get some fresh air. Since walking requires no interaction, the risk of getting sick is very minimal.

Another tip I’ve picked up is keeping a schedule. Working at home means it’s easy to mix work and personal. For instance, it’s sometimes tempting to watch TV or talk on the phone while typing up that email. That’s, however, exactly what you shouldn’t do. I’ve found that treating my normal working hours as such helps me maintain a sense of time and place. In a way, I’m more productive at home than I am at the office, free from distraction.

With the basics out of the way, it becomes important to also look out for your mental wellbeing. All this isolation and distancing can be lonely. I’m a pretty introverted person but being held up in my house for weeks on end has revealed that I’m more social than I may have let on to be.  

Social media, something I’m usually loath to engage in, has become an integral part of staying active and engaged with those closest to me. Virtual happy hours, conference calls and video chats are all on offer and make connecting easier than ever.

Another thing the extra time and solitude has given me is the space to dive into my hobbies – reading, writing, and drawing … Now is the best time to nerd out on all of the things you love and that bring you joy.

Speaking of indulgences, while it’s important to stay informed, I’ve found comfort in staying away from the news headlines to some extent. With developments happening so fast and every news story bearing the weight of the world, constantly consuming news can be depressing. To help beat the news blues, I stick with a handful of major newspapers and websites that I check occasionally throughout the day. Cable news is a hard no.

silhouette photo of person standing near body of water
Looking at the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. Photo by Ji Pak

One headline I did not miss was last week’s announcement by the DC government that all non-essential businesses are to close until mid-April. And today, officials went one step further and announced that residents will soon be issued stay at home orders. All one can do is grocery shop and visit the doctors. On the plus side, pollution levels are down and the air smells cleaner.

While this new reality leaves us all in a perpetual state of flux, one thing is for sure – we will never be the same. Maybe this will leave us more prepared to handle the next pandemic. Maybe this, like many major world-wide threats, will leave us feeling more connected.

Whatever the lasting effects are, it’s important that we take some of the lessons learned with us into the future. Make no mistake – COVID-19 is an awful event that’s killing thousands, but thinking of how solutions are often forged in challenging times is one of the most comforting outlooks one can have. Like all catastrophes put before, we will come out of this thriving. But in order to do that we must recognize the root cause, which is the collision of the natural and human world.

The unabated trade and consumption of wildlife will only lead to more pandemics and in turn more suffering, for both people and animals. Thus, instead of just keeping us bound to our rooms for the foreseeable future, this outbreak should serve as a launch pad to banning the trade and consumption of wildlife. In the end, finding these sorts of silver linings might be the most comforting thing of all.

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