Hey COVID, I Know You're Out There, So Listen Up!

Talking to COVID.

Posted May 13, 2020

geralt/Pixabay Commons
Source: geralt/Pixabay Commons

"COVID-19,  I know you’re out there, even if you can’t hear me. I know you’re floating in the vapor emitted as people cough, sneeze, or even breathe. And I know if we meet by accident, you will nudge your way into my lungs and make my life miserable or even snatch it from me. I know all these things, but I also know there’s one thing you can’t do. You can’t control what I say to myself. So COVID, listen up, because this is what I will be saying to myself:”

1.  I Can Control What I Can and Let Go of the Rest

“COVID, I know I can’t control what I can’t control and I’m ready to give up trying to try to control everything.  But I can control what I think and what I do.  I can talk sense to myself and kick the nonsense outside, where you may be waiting. You can have it.”  

When bad things happen, it's rational say to yourself, “This is unfortunate.  It’s not what I want or what I need, but it is what it is.”  We can change what we can change and learn to accept things we can’t change.  There’s wisdom in this sentiment, as expressed in the well-known Serenity Prayer.  This familiar theme has its roots in Stoic philosophy dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, and is a running theme in this blog.

2.  I Need to Live in My Own Space and in My Own Head Within My Own Space

“COVID, you may be out there, but this is my space and you are not welcome to it. I may feel like I’m on house arrest without an ankle bracelet, but it’s a space I can make my own.  Yes, I miss the gym, but I can find space to exercise or join an online exercise class.  I also know it’s important to make my bed even if no one on Zoom sees it, simply because it helps maintain a sense of normalcy in my life.  And so I will shower, shave, and get myself dressed.  COVID, I will not let you keep me in pajamas all day long.”

In helping patients cope with the many challenges of sheltering in place, I remind them of the importance of keeping to routines—eating, cleaning, bathing, reading, working, and relaxing. 

3.  It Is What It Is and It’s Not What It’s Not

“COVID, I remember baseball games and I hope they will return soon.  I remember that as a batted ball heads down the foul line headed towards the seats, the home crowd sways in unison trying to will the ball to land in fair territory.”  But leaning in that direction doesn't make it so. So, COVID, I may not know everything, but I know the following:

  • Thinking it is so doesn't make it so. 
  • Feeling it is so doesn't make it so.
  • Wishing it is so doesn't make it so.
  • Wanting it doesn't make it so.
  • Demanding it doesn't make it so.

Saying “it is what it is” is both a tautology (restatement of the same idea) and a truism (self-evident proposition).  Logically speaking, tautologies don’t actually explain anything. They merely restate the obvious or express the same idea in different words (“Hunger is a state of feeling hungry”).  A tautology is necessarily true, or true by definition.  But even tautologies can be instructive.  The famed popular philosopher and baseball great, Yogi Berra, famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Sometimes we need to emphasize the obvious to see things more clearly.

4.   I Need to Task Myself 

“COVID, I will set out every day to accomplish several achievable tasks, so that at the end of the day, I can say to myself, “I did this and I did that, and that’s okay.” 

Make every day count.  At the start of the day, or the night before, list out the tasks you want to accomplish that day. Sort them by category (work tasks, household tasks, self-care tasks), then identify one task from each category and keep a second in mind, just in case you feel ambitious. 

5.   I Need to Lighten Up on Myself

"COVID, I will lower my expectations of myself.  I will go easy on myself. In times of crisis, I need to focus on coping, not climbing mountains.  I will reduce my expectations and not judge myself harshly if I fail to accomplish what I would typically do if you weren’t around.”

"COVID, in the end, the brightest minds in the world will defeat you, as they mobilize their efforts to develop treatments and eventually a vaccine, hopefully in record time. Until then, COVID, I know you’re out there, but you should know that you are not welcome in my head.“

There is much we can do to help ourselves cope with this unprecedented challenge. There are also many resources available to us in the age of COVID, including online counseling services and call centers, as well as many helping professionals who are engaging their patients through teletherapy and telemedicine.  You may be encountering psychological problems you never faced before, problems like anxiety, depression, and fear. Reaching out for support during a time like this may be the best way of talking back to COVID.

© 2020 Jeffrey Nevid