Last Friday, cooped up in my apartment, I knew I had to get out and go for a run. A good friend of ours has gotten my wife and I into the New York running scene recently, and I had just run the last race—a 10K— before the rest were canceled due to the coronavirus. On that unusually warm March afternoon, it was as if God himself (or herself?) was tempting us to test our luck in the outside world, and I gave in. I put on my running clothes as usual, but this time, I also strapped on surgical gloves, purchased in a frenzy the day before from the health aisle at Shoprite, dodging carts and hand sanitizing along the way.
As I began the run, I thought about how the US had gone from 0 to 100 in the past few days, just as I had gone from a sedentary position on my couch to sprinting through the streets of Jersey City. How could this have happened so suddenly and what does it all mean? Was I overdoing it by wearing plastic gloves (which were smooth, cool to the touch, and periwinkle blue)? Without realizing it, I was asking one of the biggest questions we’ve all been facing in these unsettling times: how do we strike the balance between taking the necessary precautions and not letting fear and anxiety reign supreme?
A Time for Personal Growth
I’m not the kind of person who likes spending all day at home. But I’ve been trying to reframe my mindset and see this time as an opportunity, rather than a nuisance, or worse, a trigger for anxiety. Remember just a week ago when you complained about your commute? Make use of that former commute time to start playing the piano (it looks so lonely by my desk), reading that book you always wanted to (I’m halfway through East of Eden and I’m still not sure which character James Dean is), learning how to bake bread or make pizza, or working on that memoir you put aside. You won’t regret it.
This is also an opportunity to combat the anxiety with some good old down dog and shavasana. That word means meditation for those of you who have been living on the other side of the yoga mat for the past ten years. You’re already in your house—plop out of bed and do some push-ups and sit ups. This is the time to use the strategies we’ve developed to manage our daily stress. It will make a world of difference in your day.
We’re All in This Together
Running through Hamilton Park, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Every person I saw I tried to keep my distance from. Social distancing is the proven method to fight this disease, I’m convinced. However, though we ought to create physical distance between each other—even our own family sometimes—we cannot let that translate into emotional distance. We’re all in this together and showing compassion and empathy for one another is what will get us through this challenging time. Check in with your family and friends. Do what makes you comfortable and don’t judge others for doing the same. We’re all dealing with this in different ways but all of us can use support from others.
It Will Pass
In your deepest moments of anxiety, remind yourself that it will pass—and breathe! As difficult as it seems to steer the ship in the right direction, remember that the seas will be calm again; we just have to weather the storm. Several countries are either successfully containing the virus or “flattening the curve,” and vaccines are already being developed.
Looking for a silver lining in all this? Less travel, closed factories, and fewer people on the road have lessened air pollution, which is linked to several life-threatening diseases including cancer. Before the virus, many people felt that the environment was the most important issue of our time, and now, we’re seeing a serious reduction in carbon emissions. This isn’t a “let’s make the best of this” type scenario—this will have a significant impact on humanity and the Earth (see link below from iflscience for more information).
As I sprinted the last half mile of my afternoon run, I spotted my apartment building in the distance. Though we may not realize it now, this marathon of wills shall come to an end. We are running an invisible race to find our emotional awareness, and though we don’t know how long it will take, we’ll all get there. For however long this coronavirus dominates our lives, I know I’m going to finish my run. Even if it means I’m the one with surgical gloves on.
Image by Daniel Reche