Among the various virus demons, time has gone all squishy on me. Many times a day, five minutes feels more like 15, or it can be the reverse – clock hands refuse to move forward. Either way, I'm usually confused about time and I've been wondering if it's stress.
It's been about three weeks since lockdown got serious. I had been telling friends that being mostly housebound is probably easier for retired people because we've had time to organize daily routines around something other that a job. Now I'm not so sure.
Perhaps stress – not to mention fear – are causing life, including keeping track of time, to go wonky. I've never believed all stress is bad. For most of my working life, I needed to meet several deadlines a day. Often, these were not suggestions. They were your television set (that's you, currently reading this) going black if I didn't do A, B and C. It could take a good deal of tension to make that happen on schedule.
Many years ago, when I was producing a daily, live television show, as the stage manager was about to count down the five seconds to air, he got the attention of everyone in the studio with, “Okay, everybody, tense up.”
And so we did, alert to any- and everything that could go wrong during that hour while keeping the show moving smoothly. And it worked. But lots of other stress and anxiety isn't as successful or benign.
Increasing numbers of media stories are advising us about mitigating stress. It's all pretty much the same which doesn't make it less important. These are the highlights:
• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media about the virus
• Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate – whatever techniques work well for you
• Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
• Exercise regularly to the extent that you can
• Get plenty of sleep
• Make time to unwind. Do some other activities you enjoy
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling
• Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row
Most of these instructions are part of my day. Eat well, exercise daily (except weekends), sleep at least seven hours (with the help of edible cannabis), practice deep breathing, talk with friends and there's always this blog to work on when the news gets to be too much.
However, it is not like we have any practice at maneuvering through a deadly pandemic. No one alive remembers the 1918 flu when it has been estimated that at least 50 million people worldwide died with about 675,000 deaths occurring in the United States.
If that doesn't scare you...
What's more, an increasing number of people in the U.S. are protesting against stay-at-home orders, saying they will take their chances with the virus.
The problem with that attitude, of course, is that it is not just their own lives they are putting at risk, it is anyone in their vicinity. Reports such as that along with the president's continuing failed leadership sometimes leave me terrified.
Jane Brody, writing in The New York Times reminds us,
”Sustained anxiety increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, clinical depression and, ironically, infectious diseases like Covid-19 by weakening the immune response to a viral infection.”
Brody also tells us that doing something good – for neighbors, essential workers and strangers who lack adequate resources – can help bolster positive feelings.
”I've gone through closets and bagged tons of clothing to give to those in need,” she writes, “and I’ve contributed to a GoFundMe site that is raising money to provide meals for workers at the neighborhood hospital, which also helps support local restaurants now limited to takeout only.”
That really works. I told you recently about the food delivery person who texted me a heartfelt thank you after I left a $20 tip. I did that because I had no smaller bills but there is no price on how good it made me feel and now I keep $20 bills in hand just for that purpose.
Another thing I do to calm my mind is tell Alexa to play Gregorian chants. I keep them going in the background sometimes for several hours.
And there is this. Here is what the Youtube page tells us:
”Each year a large herd of sheep visits Shafer Vineyards during springtime here in Napa Valley. They come to naturally mow the abundant cover crop that grows in our vine rows, which is an important part of our approach to sustainable farming. Everyone at the winery loves it when the sheep arrive.
“There's something about their presence that is calming, cheering, and peaceful. During the upheaval and uncertainty in the world right now, we wanted to share the pastoral beauty of this with you.
“These images of beautiful sheep grazing in our vineyards are set to the music of songbirds, the vineyard breeze, occasionally the geese on our pond, and of course the sheep themselves.
We've repeated one hour of footage to give you a total of six hours of wine country tranquility.”
It works for me. Maybe it will for you, too. And maybe you could share what it is you do to keep the virus demons at bay.