Trying to Do Coronavirus Safety Correctly
INTERESTING STUFF – 18 April 2020

Stress in a Time of Virus Demons

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.

Comments

The sheep are lovely! Their sounds are lovely. Thank you, Ronni!

I think the biggest thing I do most days.........yesterday I shopped, and got a dose of big nerves......is believe that my life, my environment is real, it deserves moment to moment attention. To die is unavoidable at some point, it would be good for me when I am moving into that zone, to feel that I lived my life fully. And for me that does not include spending hours watching and listening to angry, deluded people on screens. An hour a day is enough. It's not that it doesn't bleed through into each day, of course it does. Just the energy of so many people dying at the same time is enough to be felt by the hardest heart. But the Atamasco lillies and Jack In the Pulpits are blooming in the woods, a friend calls, chores always, and I am back to painting at least a few hours each day. When I write my gratitudes each evening there has always been beauty and love and meaning in the day, whether or not I was present for it.

OMG, Ronni, I should probably die of aggravation if someone played Gregorian chants to me. Isn't it marvelous how differently people experience life? When I want a quiet moment, I go to the kitchen - to gaze out my "window on the world", a small bay window, the "floor" of which is about 4' high so that I may lean against my elbows on it. Especially, now that it is spring with blossoming trees, I soak in the tranquility of our back yard and small woods. I feel so lucky to be in such a pleasant place for sequestering. Of course, the yard/woods work that I must do is a bit less tranquilizing.

The mornings seem to be the hardest time for me these days.

"Before" I was always on a scheduled routine - up very early, coffee maker turned on, gym clothes at the ready, coffee and the E-edition of the local newspaper, jump in the car, drive 20 minutes to my Curves and do the gentle workout with a group of eight to ten other early-birds (my homies), then off to the next gym where I did the stationary bike for a harder workout, then home to the same oatmeal and fruit breakfast every day, before showering and seeing what the day would bring.

"After" (or perhaps more hopefully "during") there are no Curves or gyms open. I just wake up whenever I wake up, and lie there trying to find some sort of motivation to get up and on with another same-same-same day.

So - after a month of that, I realized my pants are snug, my brain is dull, and my attitude is not good.

I'm trying to find one good thing to look forward to every day. Sometimes it's not hard - like last week when my new stationary bike was set to arrive- that was a good day! Sometimes, it's just something small - like yesterday when I knew my CSA box would be outside the front door. Or when I'm in the middle of a really good book, and I know I will enjoy it. Or the day I get to drive to the grocery store parking lot to take delivery of the order I placed 10 days ago and what a surprise it will be to see what is in it now that I can't remember what I asked for. Or when it will be sunny and warm and I know I can go for a long walk or dig in my garden.

It's hard finding that something - any something, especially since I am most definitely not of the Pollyanna variety personality. I miss my children and grandchildren immensely. I miss my friends, my book club not being on Zoom, my weekly hiking group. On and on. I just try to remind myself this will come to an end someday - hope I'm still around for that!- and that there are people who are facing financial crises and not enough food and stuck in the house with restless young children. I am none of those - so that's something to be glad for every day.

I guess.

I ask Alexa to play cello music. Very restful but can't say that I've been stressed. At least no more than normal. I live with 250 other people in a retirement community. So I can see folks any time I go to get my mail or pick up delivered food at the front door. I really miss all the concerts I attended and various events and shows at art museums. Streaming them on my computer is not nearly as wonderful. I've been making a fair amount of movies, which is fun and challenging. I've enjoyed coming up with ideas for our ukulele group and others to participate in. I've got loads of photographs I took back in the day when I traveled and walked in the woods. I love NPR and PBS, hearing and seeing educational shows. And my friends and I send funny things to each other by email. One thing I haven't done much of: cleaning my apartment. Oh well!

Daily life--meal prep, cleaning, laundry, caring for the cats, yard work, reading the paper, checking in with church members, weekly grocery shopping. Pretty much the same as before the shutdown.

Yes, I would like to go out to eat, but it's okay as I make very tasty meals. Yes, I would like to see my grandchildren in 3D, but FaceTime & texting will do for now. I miss the children at Columbia and our storytelling time.

I think less on what I am not able to do and more on what I am able to do. My yards bring me great joy right now as the weather is getting sunny and warm. I am really going to have to rethink life when winter comes and I don't go outside very much. Perhaps I will do more writing.

I'm not much of a clock watcher, and I sometimes don't even know what day it is until I ask Google. The only real tension is the idea of going out and catching the virus. I'm so used to being home alone all day anyway that not much has changed for me. But knowing the virus would likely kill me ... yes, that tension is always there somewhere. So I stay in. Period. I don't add to it by watching the news. The latest update, maybe, but that's it. If there's a doctor talking, I'll listen. I don't trust anyone else to get it right.

I've watched (and listened to) the sheep for 15 minutes now and will watch again later when I take my lie-down time. Very soothing-- and joyful to observe the only little baby lamb in the crowd. I did not think I could move any more slowly than I am, but this video convinced me otherwise. Thanks, Ronni.

The first week I was flat out afraid, marginal lungs and a little heart problem. That week was also my 78th birthday, no party. My doc and kids said no leaving home. The second week I slept, slept a lot. I had quit reading and watching programs because my mind was like a fly on S--t. Buzzing around. The third week I kind of got over it and set up a morning routine. My old routine revolved around getting outside every day. I can leave, I just can't get out of the car and go inside somewhere.

I've started sketching again, I'm keeping a "Covid" journal, this is a historical event and writing/sketching my observations and feelings is very helpful. I started cooking again and signed up for an online blog about Korean cooking. I'm a big fan of Korean film and dramas and have been curious about the yummy things I see being eaten. I'd been getting groceries online from S-way but started exploring who else in town here delivered food products, I live in a farm and wine town. You best believe the wineries will supply you. :-) Even my favorite shoe store one town away is delivering one day a week. So I am trying to shop locally. I got meat from a great local butcher store who also sells dairy and eggs. My favorite bakery, best bread in the world, is doing telephone orders and will bring it out and put it in your car.

And thank God for my patio. It's big enough for my kids and grandkids to sit about 12' away from me and we can visit a little.

My other soothing thing is driving out among the various farms here where you can see miles of planted fields with the Blue Mountains behind them. Next time I 'm taking my camera.

Ask Alexa to play flute music.

I take daily hour-long walks in a nearby park. I try not to let my distancing vigilance dampen the joy of walking in a nice park. We live in a high-rise, so I’m a bit stressed knowing I have to take the elevator to and from our 13th floor. I get out and wait for the next one if it stops and someone else isn’t willing to wait. We have workers renovating our building and I’ve asked several to please allow me my six feet of distance. They’ve been very nice about it. One guy even stepped into the garbage chute closet to give me space! My husband goes to Target for groceries every two weeks during early senior citizen hours. It’s gone well but so far they don’t require the cashiers to wear masks or gloves.

My brother and his wife send video of their three newborn goats and it’s so sweet! I’m also enjoying photos and videos of family and their children, and one brother recently arranged a Zoom family gathering. I think about thirty of us were there. Yes, we have a big family! I do a daily meditation practice and listen to many audiobooks and podcasts.

I never listen to Trump. He isn’t honest and his lack of leadership and common sense appalls me so I don’t waste my time. I rely on our incredibly calm, fair and thoughtful governor’s daily updates (Tim Walz, Minnesota) and on NPR for expanded news. I’ve cut WAY down on news intake.

Sorry this is so long! Clearly I needed some to “talk” to! Be well and safe, everyone. You AND your loved ones.

Losing track of time -- the struggle is real! I've become more dependent than ever on the two atomic clocks in our house. Never have I consulted the day and month on them as often as in the past few weeks. One of the clocks' batteries recently ran down and even it was confused.

There have been so many things going on locally by places we can't access otherwise. Today a very popular apple orchard offered a one-day sale of their incomparable apple cider donuts on a drive-up basis, and hundreds of cars were lined up for two miles along the country road this morning. The sheriff's office closed the road and re-routed other traffic so that cars could have entrance and exit access without problems. Proceeds from the sale are going to a local homeless program, and I would have gone out for this, but when I saw the lines on a news station's FB video, I decided I didn't want to spend a couple of hours or more in my vehicle waiting to pick up a dozen donuts (purchases are limited to that). I'll just make my own donation to the organization and forego the donuts.

For those who may not have heard or read them, there was an excellent NPR interview a couple of days ago with Michael Specter, a journalist who wrote about Dr. Fauci in a recent New Yorker article. I found both the interview and the article to be fascinating and I learned so much about this man for whom I have enormous respect.

Thanks for the sheep video. I don't have trouble falling asleep, but if I did counting these sheep would certainly help.

Years ago when engaged in some research for a paper I had to write I discovered Hans Selye, considered to be the father of the term stress. Given the multiple stressors I was experiencing from all areas of my life I felt enlightened when I read that he said stress was not a problem until it became distress.

His precise words and meanings became altered, which often happens to the findings of researchers, as writers of articles simply spoke of “stress”, the problems with stress, need to avoid stress, and on and on to this day.

I’ve always thought the point was for stress that we all experience in our lives is that it is not necessarily bad for us, but we do need to strive to prevent our stress from becoming distress. That can be a challenge for many of us these days. Perhaps our attitude and how we choose to perceive our circumstances has some bearing on preventing or, at least, minimizing the degree to which our stress becomes distress — beginning with the language we tell ourselves and may come to believe.

Ronni, I absolutely love the Gregorian Chanting. When in Tuscany, my husband (atheist) & I attended three masses just to listen to the monks chanting. I use visualization a lot. Your piece on the sheep brought back my memories of being high up in a little Greek village (Papingo) at the end of the mountains during fall. I could hear bells coming from a distance which became higher in volume and higher as herders brought the sheep down from the mountain to be parceled out at different homes in the valley for the winter. It was so incredibly moving to me as I watched the snake-shaped rustic road show the path of the flock and hear the bells taper off. It still gives me goose bumps. I also make an attempt to stay away from listening to "The Mouth" orate due to his personality & lying. I find my blood pressure bubbling if I don't. So sickening. I find the quiet along our country road lovely & am never at a loss to find something pleasurable at home. Warmest wishes to everyone here and to you. Hugs.

I walk in our 55+ community--down the middle of the street, listening for oncoming traffic--twice daily. I haven't done a lot of reorganizing or major tidying-up because of some physical limitations, pIus there's nowhere to put stuff except the garbage can, which fills up fast with used cleaning supplies. Goodwill is, of course, closed as are all other donation centers.

I spend a lot of time trying to find more cleaning supplies and groceries online for pickup. I'm not sure how we're supposed to sanitize/disinfect our homes constantly when the products needed to do so are not available (giving good old soap and water its due).

Like most elders, I'm doing all I can to avoid COVID-19. I'd like to survive if for no other reason than to cast my vote against tRump in November or whenever the election is held. I hope to see him resoundingly defeated by a huge margin. A chimpanzee, chosen at random, could have done a better job of responding to this public health crisis than he and his overprivileged buddies have. I still semi-watch the "daily briefings" (the parts presented by the public health experts) but gave up on much of it being at all credible after the "My Pillow" guy pitched his product a few weeks ago.

To reply to your query “what it is you do to keep the virus demons at bay?” I could repeat what Copcar wrote in the comments above “Isn't it marvelous how differently people experience life?” It is marvelous really to see how very different we are, we are all unique. I feel a bit guilty in a way to be happy without any stress or distress. I am isolated, but not lonely. I spent several days looking through many old photographs to find spring flowers to place on my blog, and the time went pleasantly and fast. In the backyard, which is full of weeds, I found lovely wild flowers and took my time to photograph them – violets are making a carpet of creamy white, pale lavender to dark purple, such beauty. I can also sit on my back porch and listen for a long time to the birds’ spring calls. It was 77 F today and it really felt like spring.

Now I have time to arrange my vintage postcard collection without remorse and feeling that I am not being constructive. It could be that I was so isolated in a way while being a caregiver 24/7 for my husband during his Alzheimer’s years. I could never leave him alone or be by myself. I don’t mind not talking to anyone or not having seen anyone in over a month, I find it calming. Of course I also think about the tribulation and grief people are going through and am so sad about this tragedy. I do worry though about my son-in-law being a physician in the ER. His mask his hurting his face so badly and he works too much. So that’s it, I worry a bit but have no demons.

Ronni for the first time I can even remember today I felt fear and it was the idiot pres telling people to resist stay at home. I actually felt it in my body and wanted to cry. I don't need another stroke so I best stick to coloring instead of FB.

Thanks for the sheep.

Right now we are in Japan with our 4 year old granddaughter. Decided to stay here vs fly home when flights dried up. Life he is about normal for us - except taking the granddaughter to Mickey d’s for French fries- so we don’t even remember what’s going on “out there“.
Sort of weird. I’m able to catch up on a few computer based projects so I’m keeping busy when the kiddo is at school.
No guilt - we’re enjoying the extended visit.

Thanks a million for sharing the video and other helpful tips.I get by wth the following:--
French movies,Indian Carnatic(classical)music ,the online extravaganza that our local library has made available,card games at the family dining table on alternate days and clearing stuff once in a while.

Loved the video. Along those lines I follow "the world's smallest sheepdog" on Twitter and the shephard's videos on YouTube (Zwartbles Ireland)--small clips of daily life on an Irish sheep farm--amazingly soothing, especially when she takes us on walks through the woods.

I also go for long walks, chat with friends, stroke the cat when he lets me, read novels, do crossword puzzles--all in an attempt to shift my attention and mood.

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