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Coping With COVID

Reach out and touch someone (figuratively).

My wife and her girlfriends chat for extended times on an almost daily basis. My guy friends and I don’t. We don’t chat. When we call, there is usually an agenda, a specific purpose. Now, during this dismaying time of isolation, I have started to phone friends for no explicit reason. They are a little perplexed: Why are you calling? No reason. How are you? Okay. So, what are you streaming? What are you reading?

As a psychiatrist, I am acutely aware of how easily physical distancing can advance into emotional seclusion. It’s Groundhog Day, and we are awakening to Sonny and Cher over and over again, when Tuesday feels just like Saturday. Those living alone, the elderly with physical limitations, and those struggling with psychological infirmity are even more vulnerable. We are part of a global struggle which, though victory is certain, presents us with an ambiguous future at a terrible cost. Our own lives are threatened by an unseen enemy that poisons us before we know we are even targeted. And this pathogen will undoubtedly change our future in ways we cannot currently foresee.

In these circumstances all of us are more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Our frustrations are exacerbated during this time when family celebrations of Easter and Passover have been corrupted, and the usual joys of spring weather are disabled. Feelings of helplessness are prominent. We can assuage some of these feelings by donating to our community: Donate funds. Donate blood. Volunteer for support groups. Patronize businesses and organizations. Sew masks. Just as important, we can contribute to our friends.

On a walk, at a safe distance, stop and talk to a neighbor or stranger. Utilize video connections as an imperfect substitute for family contacts, especially during holidays. Maintain some social media links, even if you usually disdain them. Be especially sensitive to those you know who are alone and are struggling with physical or emotional impairments. And call someone for no reason…to chat.

Now, there is a reason.

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