Ennui, anxiety and depression are the other virus strains we must contend with

That queasy feeling we are all experiencing these days is the result of living in a world in constant flux. Each day under the pall of COVID-19 we receive wave after wave of information, terrifying math and literal fake news. We are doused in a constant stream of cries for help. And there seems little we can do about 99 percent of it from our living rooms. It is a fragile time that has exposed not only the precarious limits of our society, but our disquieted selves.

I tried settling into a book last weekend and failed. Didn’t work, so I tried another. And another. I own thousands of books, so I had options. But I could not find my way into the world of any book, let alone the sweet spot that comes with enjoying the experience. I could not settle my mind, and yet couldn’t tell you any one thing I was thinking of. I recognized that my inability to engage literature was an emotional reaction to the world around me, but it still gave me pause. It felt like I had been infected mentally. After some thought, I realized that, even in engaging an act I loved, I was doing too much. Not forever, but definitely that day.

Any other day, reading a book would have been no big deal. I devour books when I have the time and inclination. I’m a librarian, after all. But right now, even that seems too much to attempt. I had to step back and do the things that work those muscles differently, that allow for escapism, but without the processing that reading requires. I had to break down the thing I wanted to do to a level my mind and emotional state could actually execute. I had to remind myself that bandwidth isn’t only for computers and ham radios. It is also for aching hearts and anxious minds.  

We have access to more technology in our pockets than anyone on the planet possessed 40 years ago when the Great Blizzard of 1978 buried our region. In that disaster, I resigned myself to playing with the handful of Star Wars action figures my mother bought me for my birthday (which, coincidentally, was on the same day the blizzard hit). In this disaster, I was able to spend my weekend watching movies that were supposed to be in theaters. And when I got tired of watching every movie and TV show ever, I played "Civilization VI" until my PlayStation got hot. I haven’t even gotten to the fun stuff yet, like board games and puzzles and writing for pleasure and drinking Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey. As disasters go, I’ve endured worse.

Armageddon isn’t theoretical. It is why half of the disaster movies you’ve ever seen seem so prescient now. I promise you, they’re not. It is simply easy to predict how people will behave in a crisis because we behave in a spectrum. If you can think of a bad behavior, you’ll find an example of it in an international pandemic. What is important is to be mindful of where you are, what you have, what you are doing. An ounce of context is worth a pound of self-care. In fact that’s the formula:

1 ounce context + 2 deep breaths - 1 hour of social media per day x 2 actual conversations = 1 pound of self-care.

I’m no Dr. Acton, but in my estimation, residents of Columbus should be applying 5 to 10 pounds of self-care per day. Be gentle with each other always, but in the words of the rap god Phonte, remember that “charity starts at home.”