This past weekend marked one full year since the COVID-19 pandemic firmly took hold in the United States. When it hit New York City hard, like millions, I felt the weight of it all on my shoulders—personally and professionally.
Work prospects as a freelance writer seemed like they’d be slim as two websites I worked for let me go. As elders were immediately susceptible to the virus, I was scared for my mother’s health and safety as her caregiver. A year later, with over 500,000 souls who are no longer with us, and there were moments where I felt depleted and numb. I began to work on these six things which have helped me get through this time and to have hope that we’ll get out on the other side of this pandemic, and hopefully they can help you see the proverbial light at the end of struggle, too.
Create your system of safety and stick to it.
COVID hit my Southeast Queens neighborhood hard, to the point that we were on the verge of being a hotspot. My family and I immediately set up our game plan to keep safe and healthy. Mask-wearing is a must as well as carrying hand sanitizer. There’s a station in my house stocked with N95 face masks, gloves, disinfectant sprays and wipes handy for what few visitors come by. We also made it a point to wipe down all mail and packages arriving at the house, and any groceries. Having the responsibility of caring for an older parent also meant ensuring we kept all medical appointments, and stayed on top of prescription refills.
Make your technology work for you.
I made sure my setup at home was up to par because technical difficulties can spring up like potholes in a road after snowstorms. For virtual meetings, I bought a ring light and I also got a standalone webcam as a backup. I made sure to take advantage of tools like Google Meetings for scheduling, and to use productivity apps to keep myself on point while working. And that leads me to the next point…
Distance doesn’t have to mean distant.
The hardest part of dealing with a year under this pandemic has been the inability to physically be around family and friends. This is where technology has come to the rescue, helping me really tap into my support system despite being apart. I’ve joined in a bunch of family chats and birthday calls via Zoom and Google Duo. I’ve also gotten to catch up with friends via FaceTime. I’ve also managed to have a couple of dates via FaceTime which would seem weird on the surface but were some fun experiences. Of course, virtual happy hours never disappoint.
I was used to hitting the gym about twice a week before the pandemic shut everything down. I didn’t want to slack off, plus the addition of extra time at home and not going anywhere else was a binge snacking temptation. I created a fitness plan requiring at least a half-hour outside, downloading the MapMyWalk app to keep track of the miles I got in. At the behest of one of my sisters, I also started using walking workout videos on YouTube. Don’t sleep – those videos will put you through it. So much so that my last doctor’s visit showed I lost ten pounds.
When in doubt, seek out facts and trust.
Even now as vaccines being made available to the public, there’s been a struggle to contend with doubts and outright falsehoods about COVID-19 and the vaccines. I leaned on family members who are in the medical profession and consulted various resources throughout the past year. I also chose to block out rampant conspiracy theorists and their feeds on social media, even those cousins doing a little too much. Doing that helped me tamper down any panic that news reports and viral videos without substance that I’d come across.
Make time to unburden yourself.
One thing I found myself doing too much of over this past year was to keep pushing through things. I would internalize my anxiety from seeing the news reports of all those who passed away and from hearing the multitude of ambulance sirens throughout the day. It got to the point where I felt the physical effects through insomnia. It prompted me to ensure that I blocked out a part of every day for time to myself. I use that time to go through some guided meditation (Headspace has a free section available), to pray and if needed, to just let out whatever sadness was within and grieve.
This COVID anniversary reminded me that it was a year of profound loss. But I found that in having what was normal disrupted, that there could be something brand new and better. Let’s all work to appreciate the overall abundance of blessings we have.
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