Calm and Panic in the Time of Corona
Updated: Feb 3
By Anne Trominski:
So, here I am, an amateur blogger, writing up my little stories about plant-based eating, and I have the time, so today seems like a good day to write about how not all pickles are probiotic, but oh, wait . . . IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!!!
(deep inhale, long slow exhale)
You might have heard, but there’s this virus thing going around. I’m sure you have. It seems to be what everyone, everywhere (QUITE LITERALLY) is talking and memeing and, yes, blogging about these days. COVID-19 is on our collective minds AND PROBABLY ON EVERY GERM-RIDDEN SURFACE SO WHO CARES ABOUT A PLANT-BASED EATING BLOG?!?!
(breathe in, breathe out)
Well, I do. For one thing, I follow a lot of these blogs and have found it quite reassuring to read, repeatedly, that a plant-based diet boosts the immune system. Go veg heads! Also, can I just say, stocking up for two weeks—no problem! Rice and beans are my vegan homeboys! Some might think of that as a meal of desperation, I call it Tuesday night’s menu. I can turn beans and rice into an Indian delicacy, a Thai delight, or a Cuban rumba. No worries! Of course, I’m a bit low on green lentils and veggie stock and OHEMGEE THOSE LOCUSTS HAVE CLEANED OUT TRADER JOE’S.
Like you and everybody else, my anxiety is spiking a bit these days. I can tell, because my inner voice has gotten shouty and mean. (WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CLEANED THIS KEYBOARD, YOU NITWIT?!) And let’s face it, that doesn’t help anything. I mean, yes, we should be a tad anxious. The virus is here and some of the actions we take right now will determine how bad it gets. Some caution is warranted. Stockpiling toilet paper isn’t. We know this. This information is getting out there. We all recognize the saneness of this on a logical level. But when you are standing in your grocery store looking at an aisle that is completely empty except for three boxes of tissues AND IT’S THE KIND WITH LOTION! UGGGGGHHHHH! I SHOULD REALLY BUY ALL THE TOILET PAPER I CAN FIND FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE BECAUSE IT’S PRECIOUS! MY PRECIOUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
(we’re breathing, breathing is good)
When you’re anxious, it’s easy to spiral into hoarding and brain shouting AND INSOMNIA AND NAIL BITING AND STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!
I’m better now.
Those things really aren’t going to help at the moment. We know this, right? Anxiety and panic don’t help during normal-life everyday stress, so why would they be good during a situation a bit bigger than "I’m going to miss my deadline at work?" So, what do we do?
IT’S NOT SHOPPING AT IKEA, IS IT?!?! EVERYTHING IS SHUT DOWN!!! BREATHE, YOU TWIT!!!
Rather than rereading the same articles about global pandemics, it occurred to me that maybe I should focus on my health. Not just my physical, virus-fighting health; I NEED A SANITY CHECK. I realized what I need to do to manage my anxiety at the moment is what I do to manage my anxiety all the time. I have several strategies in place to stop me from being a stress bunny in my normal day-to-day. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to stop doing those things when bigger, scarier stressors entered the picture, but I see now that was a mistake. WE’RE GETTING LOW ON SNACKS!!! No, we have plenty of snacks left, they’re just the healthy snacks. HEALTHY SNACKS ARE STUPID!!! No, healthy snacks are great, in fact they’re an integral part of . . .
Anne’s search for sanity
in a time of social distancing!
Routines make life easier. For one thing, routines take decisions out of the equation. Generally speaking, the fewer decisions you have to make, the less stress you have. My pre-work routine has been in place for years. I brush my teeth before getting dressed. I make my lunch after feeding the cat. I drink my coffee on the commute. Yes, occasionally I worked from home before, but it was an exception to the routine, so it didn’t matter that I didn’t have anything established yet. Now, it matters! I need to know when to do what because otherwise I go on Facebook and worry about global pandemics. Seeing all those parents post pics of their kids’ schedules and work charts finally clued me in that I should make one of those for me too. Okay, I don’t need to pack a lunch, change out of pajama pants, or commute. So, let’s make a new routine for the morning so that I actually sit down and work and not just go into my fiancé’s office to tell him things like IKEA HAS CLOSED!!! HOW WILL I ORGANIZE MY LIFE NOW?!?
My significant other, by the way, has worked from home for years, so the only wrench in his routine right now is me. So, basically, I need to establish more effective time management strategies for myself for the sake of our relationship. A new routine, a few less decisions I need to agonize about in his sphere of hearing, the happier this self-isolated household will be.
A meditation habit has been great for me in the past. Recently, I’ve been struggling to maintain it consistently because of that old nemesis, a lack of time. Well, “no commute” just cleared that up. Before I log on to the HORRIBLY SCARY WORLD OUTSIDE, I’m going to make a concerted effort to sit quietly and JUST BREATH ALREADY.
Seriously, though, if I sit with my eyes closed and breathe deeply on a regular basis, I find it easier to breathe and remain calm when my eyes are open. IT’S A WORK IN PROGRESS, but it gets easier the more I do it. Based on someone’s suggestion, I’ve combined so many minutes of mediation followed by the same number of minutes of journaling. Knowing that I’ll have a chance to let them all out in a few minutes, it’s easier to let go of the worries and thoughts that come to mind during meditation. Since its free flow writing afterword, I don’t worry about making sense or being organized. The combo of the two can act like a little mini-exorcism of negativity to start the day. NEGATIVITY IS STUPID.
While it’s tempting to ingest nothing but snack food and wine IN OUR HOUR OF DOOM, that won’t actually help. For one thing, let’s make nice with the immune system and continue the healthy influx of nutrients from our plant-based eating. Secondly, if I have to face a true 14-day quarantine (I’m lucky enough to just be social distancing right now), I’M GONNA WANT SOME SNACKS AND WINE! No, but really. There’s no point in buying groceries for two weeks if you don’t actually eat it over the course of two weeks.
Also, it’s easier to face the world if you physically feel better. Online meetings where your coworkers discuss your projects being delayed because everything is shut down are much easier to sit through if you aren’t constipated. HASHTAG FACT. It’s easier to sleep at night if you don’t have heartburn. And mornings without hangovers are good mornings. Most of us had to learn that one through extensive experimentation in college, so let’s never forget. HYDRATE DAMNIT.
If you think I meant exercise, yes that. Exercise boosts that immune system too, and getting outside for a walk can help with any stir-crazy factor. (Apparently, extroverts get that.) Studies show that being outside in nature boosts our moods, too. IT ALSO SETS OFF OUR SEASONAL ALLERGIES SO EVERYONE THINKS WE’RE INFECTED. But they probably think that anyway so, yeah, let’s all do that.
But by activity, I don’t just mean exercise. It’s cleaning out a closet. It’s pulling out your scrapbooking paper. It’s working on a project that isn’t sitting and staring at news about A VIRUS THAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL. It’s doing something instead of pensively waiting to see what happens next. (HOLY CRAP THERE WAS AN EARTHQUAKE IN UTAH!!!) Let’s face it, the world doesn’t really need a humorous little blog about plant-based eating right now, but I really REALLY need to write a blog right about now.
So, I’m gonna.
Sleep and I have always had a tumultuous relationship, so I institute a lot of those sleep-better strategies as a matter of habit. Turn off the glowy devices before bed, dim the lights, no episodes of Criminal Minds after 9:00. Still, I’ve been lying awake the past few nights trying to solve the problems of the world. Sometimes I have success and can go back to sleep (I figured out how Cap could return the stones, age into an old man, and not disrupt the timeline), but other times I don’t (what if this lasts all the way to October, and we have to cancel the wedding?).
A long time ago, I read an article that had suggestions on how to deal with anxiety. One psychologist recommended that instead of avoiding your dark thoughts, you went there. You imagined the worst that could possibly happen. His theory was that you would see that it probably wasn’t that bad, and you could probably handle it. When I’m lying awake thinking about a problem instead of sleeping, I’ll often employ this strategy.
Often the worst that will happen is AN ASTEROID WILL SMACK INTO ME AND I’LL DIE. Which, to his point, then I don’t really have to worry about solving that problem anymore. So, not so bad. The second worst that will happen is [loved one] will die. That sort of thinking just makes me sad. Plus, I know I would do what I could to deal with it because I would have other loved ones to care for. So, that is what it is. Now, if EVERYONE DIES EXCEPT ME, well, fuck it. I’m eating all the snacks and drinking all the wine. Maybe lick some door handles.
See! That’s three problems solved. What’s the fourth worst thing that could possibly happen?
Hey, it’s cool! We’ve got the opposable-thumb edge. Cars, locking doors, harpoon guns . . . we’ll be fine.
So, yeah, sleep. I’m working on it.
Just like if bad things happen, I’ll work on those too. Until then, I’m going to work on being healthy. In all the ways.
Oh yeah, and one more thing . . .
Wash Your Hands
Anne Trominski was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, but now resides in San Antonio. She graduated from Trinity University after majoring in English and Communication. She spends her dull working hours as an editor for a major publishing company, and her personal time as an oft-frustrated writer. She has written two yet-to-be published novels, countless reams of heartfelt poetry, and has tried her hand at blogging a few times. Anne is also a gastronomist and amateur chef who likes to obsessively read articles on health and wellness. She is a constant learner and explorer, and likes to drop knowledge on others like it’s hot.