Is the coronavirus pandemic a bigger threat to your physical or mental health? I find this to be an interesting question as many articles have cropped up recently on the lasting psychological damage that prolonged lockdown could cause. How the pandemic is affecting you likely has a lot to do with the current stress in your life right now. Those of us who enjoy security in our homes are (in my opinion) more likely to be struggling with psychological stress, while those of us who are working outside the home are more concerned with their physical wellbeing.
I first heard of the coronavirus in late January. I remember reading a few news headlines about a dangerous virus that was killing many in China. I felt shaken by the news but thought this was largely an internal problem. A few weeks later in mid-February, the coverage of the virus was more widespread, but I did not seriously consider cancelling a weekend trip that I had scheduled for Newport, Rhode Island (more here). Early March for me is when things seemed to escalate. One weekend, I visited two different yoga studios and a couple of cafes. I felt delinquent as I knew that the virus was highly contagious and that I was surely putting myself and others at risk with my non-essential travel. Early March was also when I became anxious about contracting the virus and falling ill myself. I was ordered to work from home mid-March, and, today, in mid-April, I continue to work remotely.
Near the beginning of the crisis I was primarily concerned about my physical health. When I still traveled on the subway, I was anxious to find an empty car, and before I ate, I scrubbed my hands with the fury of Lady Macbeth. However, once I started to work from home, my view about the pandemic threat shifted. Working remotely with no trips to the cafes, the shops, or any other place of business, I started to feel that the real threat to my health was psychological. The safety that I feel in my own home is not something I take for granted. However, this safety is the reason that I could shift my focus away from fearing the virus and my attention toward feeling isolated and caged.
The pandemic reveals an uncomfortable divide in our society. The New York Times summed it up succinctly: The rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even work to be had. If neither money nor your physical safety is at risk, you will more likely feel a psychological burden. If you are a lower-wage earner serving in an essential capacity outside the home, you have your health and your family to worry about most. Then, there is an uncomfortable middle filled with concerns about bringing in enough money each month, access to healthcare, childcare, and emotional support during this time.
I see plenty of articles out there stating that the pandemic is triggering feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. These feelings are serious and if you feel this way, you should seek support. However, these articles are written for upper-middle class concerns. Reading commentary like this one is not bad (quite insightful!!), but it makes the pandemic seem less like a life-or-death matter and more like a “social experiment.” It is important that we remember the hardships that many of us are going through. If we choose to leave the home for exercise, we should cover our mouths and keep our distance from others to protect those who are compelled to leave.
Unfortunately, it is also the case that a small minority of us who feel less affected by the pandemic are taking advantage of others during this difficult time. Price gauging on essential products like toilet paper is all too common. Additionally, schemes to buy personal protective equipment in bulk and sell them to hospitals for profit is a gross outcome of this crisis. However, there is still good in the world. On Facebook, I watch as my community springs into action offering to sew cotton masks for essential workers, deliver food to those in need, and volunteer time and energy on important tasks.
The pandemic touches us in deeply personal and hard ways. It is important that we do our best to keep the ongoing situation in perspective. If we are able to give—time, money, service, emotional support—then, perhaps, we should could consider doing so. Today, I donated to the Boston Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund. It was not much, but if we all do a little, we will make a big difference in our communities and in this world.
If you are working in an essential business—thank you for your continued service!
I hope we will all continue to do our part to help and support each other during this time. Consider volunteering, checking in on friends and loved ones, or making a donation to support your community. We’re all in this together, Dear Reader, so let’s do our best to support one another.
As always, I wish you health, happiness, and an abundance of goodness.