Mind Matters — Reflections in the Time of Covid-19

Welcome to the new normal of social distancing. A month ago it seemed surreal to be doing the six-feet apart dance and seeing no one, but it is becoming eerily status quo.

My personal life has changed in that I am reaching back in time when I was the mother of two tiny tots living in the middle of nowhere Western Pennsylvania. Now I am the grandmother of two tiny tots for whom I am caregiving on the first floor of our two-family house while their parents hide out on the third floor working from home. My husband telecommutes from the unfinished basement office. In some ways then I am far less isolated than I was over thirty-five years ago. Given that Massachusetts is a hot spot, daycare centers won’t open until June 29 (if then) so I will continue channeling my younger self for a few more months at least.

I am not complaining about this arrangement. I wanted to move from Pennsylvania to be with my grandchildren and so I am in “the full catastrophe” as Zorba the Greek would say.

As a psychologist, allow me however to share some advice. If you are a parent, recognize that your children are emotional barometers for whatever stress and anxiety is manifesting in you. Children soak up like little sponges what parents do and feel. They mimic parents in their actions and attitudes and feelings. So, parents, it is important to take care of yourselves by getting sleep, eating healthy, getting exercise. Consider learning calming routines such as meditation or yoga. There are plenty of online ways to do this. Take your children outside for a walk and observe nature—the budding trees, the birds singing. This may all sound simplistic but really what else is there? Make the most of what is around you—open the shades, open the curtains and enjoy the clouds in the sky and the moon at night. If ever there were a time for us to reconnect with our families and ourselves, it is now. We can’t just hop on a plane or hide in a gym, we might actually have to eat family dinners!

For many of us Covid-19 is an inconvenience. However, for others, it is a hardship—how to keep food on the table or pay the rent. And we look to the many people that are keeping the rest of us going—from the healthcare providers to the delivery people to those involved in essential goods manufacture and stores.

Can we practice gratefulness? When there is a crisis, can we, as Mr. Rogers advised, look for the helpers rather than focus on the negativity of those who have little concern for the common good? We are in this together. Ironic how a microscopic virus that can travel the globe might, if we’re lucky, in the end, unite us.

For further reading, consult APA.org/topics/covid-19.