Sunday, March 22, 2020

Everyone Chill Out

Hi everyone - how’s everyone dealing with “Pandemic 2020?”

For those that don’t know - my son Russell and my wife Susan are two people who are at high-risk related to Covid-19 or whatever politically correct name we are calling it nowadays.

Because of our health issues, we started to self-isolate about nine days ago when the first case of the virus was confirmed in our city. We had discussed this with our cardiologist, and she forwarded some beneficial information for us.

We are minimizing social contact - not in complete isolation. I went to work one-day last week and have made a trip to the grocery store and the pharmacy, but that’s about it. We aren’t freaking out, and are trying to take appropriate action based on the level of risk.

One of the most stressful parts of this time has been the constant, unrelenting barrage of coverage of the pandemic. I would typically watch a fair bit of news coverage about this, but I’ve stopped. I don’t think it’s healthy to immerse yourself in 24/7 coverage, especially with the amount of misinformation and wild speculation that is going on.

It’s strange how this whole situation has reminded me of our stay in hospital over eleven years ago now. When my son crashed in a Winnipeg hospital - our lives stopped. In less than 24 hours, we cheated death and were uprooted from everything familiar as our son was medivac’d two provinces away.  Everything familiar and normal was gone. It has changed forever how we look at life and especially adversity. I suspect that this pandemic will have a similar effect for many.

In the past weeks, our lives have changed, but our medical complexity has prepared us.  It is not the first time that we have had to self-isolate because of an infectious disease in our community. We have had to do it on two other occasions. I guess we just live in a heightened state of readiness. No shortage of toilet paper in our house!

I am reluctant to advise as I think there are many things I still need to learn myself, but I completely understand what it is like to have your life turned upside down on a moment’s notice. If it helps - there are a few things that I would cautiously call advice.

Calm down!

For some, they are going through something I could only call group hysteria right now. Social media is an excellent incubator for this. People take their legitimate concerns/anxiety and share them with others and, before long, a group of people whip themselves into a frenzy.  Frenzied people do not make good decisions. Fear, worry, anxiety are typical and very real. However, I don’t recall a single situation in my life where ‘worry’ ever helped me solve a problem. The problem was there whether I worried about it or not. However, it ‘s not unreasonable to be worried. Worry can be positive if it motivates you to take reasonable precautions. Just don’t let it consume you to the extent that it paralyzes you. I mentioned earlier that I reached out to our cardiologist a couple of weeks ago and got some solid advice, which really alleviated some of my anxiety. This trusted source provided me with relevant information absent hyperbole and conjecture. I appreciated that.


When we were in hospital for months on end in some very high-stress situations, we felt we were not in control.  That is very disconcerting for many people. Having your life and schedule turned upside down creates lots of anxiety. What we did to combat this was developing a routine - just like a regular workweek.  We set the alarm, ate at regular intervals, and went to the hospital just like we were heading to the office. We constructed a time table and tried to introduce as much structure into our lives as we could.  This accomplished several things. It forced us to pace ourselves as we had to plan breaks and take breaks away from the hospital (especially the ICU.) Structure forced us to prioritize the important things and it gave us a sense of purpose. Finally, it gave is control over something. We were so stressed at the time - control over anything was a big boost even if it was just the time you woke up in the morning.

Know yourself

The final thing I would suggest is about understanding yourself.  Susan and I both tend to lean toward the introvert side. Being in self-isolation is not that hard for us. However, if you are an extrovert, I could see this being a huge challenge. I think this might be where social media can help out if you engage with those who are a positive influence - and yes, they do exist. My point is that you have to understand how you cope with stress and what things bring you joy. Let’s face it - we all need a little joy in our lives right now. A good book or a movie is a great escape. I’m taking on some projects around the house, and it feels great to get some repairs done that are long overdue. You have to keep positive and keep moving forward. If that doesn’t work, there are always cat videos.
The last thing I want to leave you with is a piece of advice I had heard many times from our nurses when we were in hospital.

 “This is a marathon - not a sprint.”

We have no idea how long this state of emergency is going to last. We not only need to be prepared to endure this whole pandemic, but just as importantly, we need to figure out how we will deal with the aftermath. That just might prove to be just as challenging as living through the pandemic itself.

Keep calm and carry on!

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