It would seem I’m not the only one going into lockdown. This is both a relief and a great sense of anxiety for me. It was bad enough when I was worried that I would get very sick and not recover, but to see the mandatory closing of basically everything around me is becoming very frightening. There’s no reason to pretend it’s anything short of horrifying and I won’t.
But I am also acutely aware that a lot of you don’t know what you need now that you’re stuck at home for no telling how long. You may have no idea how to navigate this landscape that is suddenly thrust upon you, so this week, we’re going to focus on getting you started in the right direction.
You Need Food
Presumably, you’ve got some groceries stocked now. If it’s any indication from the many, many photos on social media, you’ve got ALL the groceries. But do you know what to do with them? Can you actually cook? There’s no shame in living in a place where it’s cheaper to get take-out than to make dinner after a long day at work. But it has put you at a serious disadvantage today.
Start easy. Eggs are hard to mess up unless you burn them. No matter what’s in the pan, start with low heat and creep upward, unless you’re boiling water, then might as well just kick it to high to start with. Look up easy recipes for the things you’ve got on hand. Make simple staples and mix and match them in different ways. For example, cook up your rice and your beans, but not together. Then later, you might do up some taco meat and suddenly you have different meal combos.
Think ahead and combine foods that make sense. I know the grocery store may be difficult pickings right now, but nutrition is still important. You need all kinds of foods to keep going, but you may be forced to learn how to make new combinations because that’s what you have. Chicken and oranges can be a meal. Chicken and bananas, not so much.
You Need Calm
This is going to sound like hippie talk, but it’s well-documented that stress can weaken your immune system. And this is nothing if it’s not stressful. So today, I want you to find a way to find calm. Download some guided meditations, ask your watch for a breathing exercise (mine does this, yours may not), see what Alexa has for you. Controlled breathing is a great way to reduce stress, but so is taking a walk outdoors (this is very important: do not touch anyone or get near them), so is petting a dog.
Find a way to relax and make it a part of your Apocalypse Day Schedule. I know your kids are home with you and that can be another source of stress, but they’re also stressed, so if you can find something you can all do together, so much the better. Lowering stress in your household will help you all get through your quarantine without bloodshed.
It’s easy to scroll social media looking for news, I know because I’m doing it constantly. It’s also the worst possible thing you could be doing for your morale right now.
Stop counting your dead.
The reality is harsh, so touch it lightly. Check the newspaper or the local news stations for updates, but don’t do it on the hour. Try to limit yourself to a few times a day. The rest of the time, engage yourself mentally in anything else.
Write a journal, read a book, build a Rube Goldberg machine. We may do that last thing at some point. I love those things. Puzzles, trivia, anything to get your mind back to a place of relative stability. You have to have time away from this.
If you must go out, go out with caution. Drive carefully, don’t let the wasteland distract you. It will. You’ll wonder where everyone is and may even be alarmed at the lack of traffic. I know because this is exactly what happened to me in 2007, during an ice storm that brought my city to its knees for two full weeks. I cried every time I had to go out.
But unlike that ice storm, we have all our utilities, we have all we need, we just have to remember that we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of infection with a nasty virus that we can’t fight.
So, FFS, don’t touch anything you don’t have to. Wash your hands. Carry hand sanitizer if you have any. Carry mace so no one takes your hand sanitizer. Stay away from people (three to six feet is the current recommendation, that’s just a bit more than one or two arm lengths, depending on your arms). Avoid places where humans are bunched up if you can. Don’t eat in, carry out, and even then do so with extreme caution.
Lastly, remember that we’re in this together. You can’t shield yourself from a community-wide pathogen without also shielding your brother and your sister and your neighbors. The community is infected and it’s spreading fast. Protect yourself by protecting everybody else.
Don’t take all the TP. If your neighbor can’t find any, start a drive: ask the other neighbors to each donate a roll until they can find some. The madness should be over soon enough, but until then we need each other to survive and thrive.
Check on your friends and family. If they are struggling to find something you have in bulk, share.
It really is this simple, believe it or not. All we need to do is support each other and our chances of making it as a group increase dramatically.
If your elderly neighbor has to hunt and hunt for supplies that you have in abundance and they get sick while out, that’s a high resource utilization hospital bed that’s suddenly full. In other words, if all the high risk people are sick and you break your arm, you’d better just look to YouTube for answers because there aren’t enough medical professionals to go around.
On the flip side, if you insist on continuing to mingle in the community and spreading your germs around, you might be just fine, but your friendly neighborhood doctor will have to choose who gets the last ventilator. Your friendly neighborhood doctor is going to mentally fracture because he’s going to be forced to let a patient die. He will know this will be the outcome from the moment they walk in the door.
And if you’ve ever complained about MD burnout, you’d better really prepare for what that’s going to look like in the wake of a pandemic where people have been left to die in medical facilities. We’re going to see a lot of people abandoning medicine for their own mental health.
Consider the mass graves we may be forced to deal with as millions of people die (how else do you expect we’ll deal with all the bodies?). It’s not worth going to that concert. We are not emotionally prepared for tossing all our parents in the same hole and filling it with a bulldozer. As a student of history, I can promise you that you have no idea how that will impact the national on a deep psychological level.
Reach Out (But Don’t Touch Anyone!)
Reach out. Right now we’re all suffering the same stress and the same worries and the same everything. If you run into someone still in hot denial, don’t let them drag you down or convince you that you’re nuts. Much of Europe isn’t closed just for funsies.
Talk to your friends. Hell, talk to your enemies. Talk to everyone. We’re all in this sinking rowboat together, we might as well give each other some semblance of comfort and compassion. Remember that they need to talk, too, though, so give them their opportunity.
Tell people you love them. We’re living in unprecedented times. Don’t wait. I love you guys. You’ve been my weirdly loyal fanbase for all these years. Some of you are even actual, factual friends. I love you all (but remember no touching).
Don’t give in to despair, but do acknowledge reality. We need a healthy dose of compassion and concern to keep the wheels moving. You can do this. WE CAN DO THIS.
If we do it together.