Column: Distancing, not isolating, and handling our fears

Salmon Arm Observer guest columnist Nan Dickie offers coping advice

By Nan Dickie

Contributor

We are living in an unprecedented time.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we are being called upon to do things that even a month ago seemed unthinkable and impossible.

The first responsibility for each of us, as a citizen of the world today, is to ensure the mental and physical health of ourselves and our family members.

We have received many directives from the World Health Organization and the Canadian government as to how we can and must protect ourselves and our families as much as possible from contracting COVID-19. We must follow those directives diligently, whether or not we agree as to the severity of this crisis.

Looking after ourselves physically is relatively straightforward in the practical sense. Looking after ourselves mentally is different. It is an immense challenge for many reasons. For instance, most of us have never had to isolate ourselves physically so stringently from others. “Social distancing” means we cannot socialize in person (in closer proximity than two metres) at this time, except with those people with whom we live. This drastic change in how many of us usually function in the world may be shocking to us, certainly not welcome. But we have no choice but to accept it.

Many people rely on daily contact with others – friends, co-workers, clients or customers, people with whom they share hobbies or recreation, and so on. Although our physical contact with others has been necessarily minimized, we don’t need to become socially isolated. We need now to rely on modes of communication that are safe and, for most of us, at hand — that is, our computers and phones.

Keeping in touch with others can lessen our feelings of loneliness.

Whether we choose to face it or not, each of us is experiencing some degree of fear at this time – fear for ourselves, our families, our community, the economy, the wider world. If we try to hide our fear (not many people want to willingly face it!), it may manifest in ways ranging from intense anger at one extreme, to severe depression at the other.

I acknowledge my fear as much as I am able. And I try to not allow it to run amok. I lessen the intensity of my fear by countering it with my belief that “this too will pass.” I also consult reliable sources for information about the crisis, and don’t watch or read any media that sensationalizes it. We need to be informed about the state of affairs in our community and the world at large, but we don’t need to seek out and surround ourselves with horror stories that are all too prolific in some media. There is absolutely nothing positive to be gained by allowing ourselves to be absorbed and overwhelmed in that way.

Nan Dickie is a local author, speaker and former facilitator of a Salmon Arm depression support group in Salmon Arm.

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