amongst books

amongst books

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ottawa, May 22, 2020 – Trying New Masks, Long-Term Coping Strategies

Today Charles and I went to the grocery store. We wore disposable masks because we were testing them, as we want to be able to carry the masks and hand sanitizer in the future if we need to suddenly put on a mask if physical distancing is not possible. He has a great, experimental attitude about all this. He’ll get us to try things “as an experiment,” and this method seems to help me to cope. Often I focus too much on the permanent, when at this time, it is necessary to focus on the right now.

I found the disposable mask much easier to wear, more breathable and lighter. I had no issues with it at all. I didn’t feel claustrophobic. So the lesson learned, and perhaps this might help others who are having trouble wearing masks: try a different style of mask. Maybe another type will work better for you. It was a huge relief. We will continue to try different styles of masks, when we can get hold of them to see which work.

The other issue with the mask for those of us who have access to only communal laundry facilities is that cloth masks need to be washed after each use. While you can wash by hand, the best way is in the washer with the hot water and soap acting as sterilizer. This increases our time in a communal space and increases our costs. The disposable masks are about one dollar a mask. I’m not sure why we’re seeing people throw them on the street. Perhaps it’s a form of rebellion.

I find it very hard to see people on social media shaming non mask wearers.  Our national public health officer, Dr. Tam reminds us that not everyone is capable of wearing them, especially those with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, the D/deaf and those with asthma. We don’t know why someone isn’t wearing a mask.

I have decided that I will unfollow on social media those who are scolding and shaming others at this time. This is a difficult decision. It’s not a punitive measure, it’s something I need to do for my own mental health and anxiety issues. I do understand that a lot of this comes from the fight or flight response that becomes active during crises, and from anxiety over one’s own health, the health of others etc.

If you find yourself lecturing or shaming others on social media, consider rest and repair or tend and befriend responses instead. I try to reach out to friends to check in.
Advice for the Rest of Us, the Google sheet of resources for Ottawa apartment dwellers, transit riders etc is still available, albeit there haven’t been a lot of new resources to add, but it helped me to make the list and to share resources with those who needed them.

My own strategies to help me through the anxiety and helplessness I feel during these unsettling times are as follows:
1. Take care of physical health of self and husband:
food, sleep, cleaning; exercise; sex;
2. Take care of mental health of self and husband:
avoid extra expenses if possible;
avoid social media shamers and others who stress me out through negativity or hysteria;
make fact-based decisions coming from only authorized sources of information, such as government health sites;
limit time on social media
limit time listening to the news;
take walks outside when possible (it’s ok when it’s not);
play music;  
read what I’m able to focus on;
help others;
set reasonable expectations – don’t try to do too much;
avoid activities that cause stress;
be gentle on myself and others.
3. Reach out to others:
mail and e-mail are the most enriching and least stressful modes of communication for me with others, if I can’t meet in person for one-on-one conversations;
working on the podcast helps me, as well as writing notes about books I’m reading and publishing them in various places;
my writing has always been a way to reach out to kindred misfits – I’m not writing as much, but I am writing here and there. this blog helps, for example;
work on community outreach through Bywords/AngelHousePress etc.
4. Develop mindfulness:
live in the present; my guided meditation and fitness classes through Carleton are helping;
notice and appreciate moments of joy.

I am working on all of the above; doesn’t mean I’ll always succeed but I’m doing my best.

With the so-called economy opening up, I do not intend to join in. I feel it is too early and I don’t like that those I care about, disabled friends and immunocompromised friends, for example, are in danger if these opening up measures are premature, and I believe they are. I will continue to avoid most public spaces as much as I can. If I have to enter a space where I am unable to practice safe physical distancing measures, I will wear a mask to protect others.

I’m expecting these strategies and plans to be necessary for the rest of the year, if not longer. I have hope with increased funding for vaccine development that we will eventually be able to move out of our fortresses of solitude, but I am keeping my expectations low, learning to adapt to a Covid-19 environment and finding ways to keep my state of mind calm and rational while still finding meaning and moments of joy. It’s a tall order. It’s not easy, not at all.

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