Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Dealing with the psychological effects of quarantine

Dear C and Dr. B

Since the lockdown, my husband is working from home and my kids are back from college and learning online. We go on family walks daily and have dinner together every night. Morning sex is great as no one is in a rush to get anywhere. I hate to say it, but I am overjoyed. The problem is, when I hear the news or talk to my friends who lost their jobs or talk with those with younger kids who are driving them nuts, well –  I feel guilty that I am so happy and that the coronavirus has momentarily improved my life. Don’t I have the right to be happy during a pandemic? 

Bonnie  

Dr. B says: Feelings don’t follow rules. Although you do not have a constitutional right to happiness, you certainly have a personal right to any and all of your feelings. There are no wrong feelings, only wrong behaviors. I would not recommend gloating to your friends about how lucky you are. But you can be a good, solid listener to those less fortunate than you.   Sympathy for others shows understanding for their situation, but over-empathy makes their suffering your own and that doesn’t help anyone. 

C says: Bonnie, the coronavirus is killing people and crippling the economy, it is not improving anyone’s life. However, for many people, the resulting lockdowns have provided a chance to stop running around, and subsequently, spend more time at home. Some people have seen this as an opportunity to abuse alcohol, drugs and family members. You’ve turned it into an opportunity for family closeness and bonding. Good job! You aren’t screwing anyone else in order to wrongfully gain happiness at their expense, so go ahead – be happy! And if you see a chance to help others who are less fortunate, don’t forget to be a good neighbor. It’s something else you can feel good about.

Dear C and Dr. B;

I have a list of stuff that I have put on the back burner for literally years, and I haven’t been able to find time do any of it. Then came the COVID-19 lockdown, and like many others, I found myself without a job and with a lot more time on my hands. At first, I was all gung ho about cleaning out my closets, finishing the book I’d started to write and planting a garden. I started quite a few projects. But as time goes on, I feel more and more like I am in a fog. It’s hard to concentrate, and there seems no point to doing anything because the future is kind of foggy, too. Now, I spend much of the day starting jobs, then getting distracted and playing game apps on my iPad. If I try to force myself to do something creative, there’s no energy there. Even three cups of coffee have no effect. I am keeping my routines, getting exercise and eating healthy. I just don’t want to do anything. How do I get out of this coma? 

Slo Mo Monty

Dr B says: Change of any type manifests in grief. It could be that the loss of your normal life and your routines are manifesting as grief – your reaction shows many similar stages. There’s denial (the cleaning and busy times), and anger, (which may be directed either restrictions, or the non-mask wearers who won’t comply with restrictions). What you are currently describing is depression – fatigue, lack of motivation and listlessness.  Hopefully, you will move on to acceptance when the new norm forms, which will happen if this goes on long enough.  

Another cause of listlessness for many can be too much couch and TV time, weight gain due to overindulgence in comfort foods, and lack of exercise. Too much social media is also exhausting and the blue light of devices screws up our sleep/wake cycle. Lockdown can also mean less overall engaging outside the house. People are exhausting if you are trapped at home with family that doesn’t allow much free “me” time or rejuvenating social network time with friends. Try to address as many of these issues as possible and see how you feel.  

C says: My Sensei had a saying: “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” None of us really knows what to do right now, but, as Americans, we are accustomed to think that we are to “take action” when a problem arises. Certainly, that is true if a forest fire is bearing down on us. But prevention is a quiet game. If you are successful, NOTHING happens. Such a concept pretty much blows our national mythology.

Your circuits are shorted for the moment, Monty. Don’t worry about it. Listen, if you have a long list of stuff you haven’t gotten to in years, you’ve probably been pushing yourself for that long without a rest. Take advantage of this chance to recharge your batteries. When the time comes to act, you will jump to the task with renewed energy. I guarantee it.

You can visit Dr. B’s blog at drbrilliantcliche.wordpress.com

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