Over the past several weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our lives. With schools, houses of worship and most retail shuttered, and with so many cities and states on lockdown, we all look for new routines and rituals that can approximate a sense of normalcy. That’s not easy to do when most of us are working from home, and leaving the house only for necessities. It’s also not easy to manage anxiety and stress when the news is so grim.
While it all feels in some ways like a Hollywood blockbuster or post-apocalyptic fiction, it’s all too real. If only we were sitting in a movie theater, munching on popcorn and Junior Mints. It will be a long time before we sit anywhere in a group like that, and even a long time before new movies are made. And that knowledge — that our old lives are gone, even if just temporarily — makes the situation even more frightening. Fear, anxiety and depression are all natural results of an uncertain period with vast economic and societal change.
Of course, we are all focused on our physical health — every cough seems like a harbinger. But as we observe the guidelines provided by our local and regional health departments, it is equally important that we pay attention to our mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page on its website on managing stress and anxiety during this crisis. It includes recommendations for taking breaks from news coverage and social media; eating healthy; exercising; making time for enjoyable activities; and connecting with others.
We recommend readers take this advice seriously. Jog in your backyard or walk up and down your stairs. Grab a yoga mat. Add perishable foods like fruits and vegetables to your Instacart order. Get deep, consistent sleep. If the anxiety overwhelms, consider scheduling a time each day for worrying, so that it doesn’t persist all day long. Or call a crisis hotline or set up a video conference with a mental health professional.
If the isolation is getting to you, keep in mind that the Jewish community has been coming up with creative solutions to stay connected. Synagogues are livestreaming services and learning opportunities. The Institute for Jewish Spirituality has hosted virtual meditation sessions, while Hazon maintains a list of resources and suggestions for wellness activities, as does the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The JCC of Greater Baltimore has been creating and sharing workout videos on its site.
Programs like these can help us stay active and unwind from stress. We applaud these efforts and encourage the development of more.
Though practices like eating well, exercising and sleeping deeply may seem small in the face of a global pandemic, they can help us keep our minds clear and our bodies healthy as we work through the stress. During this time of great uncertainty, let’s not forget to take care of ourselves.