“I’m Worried About My Behavior”

My suggestions for a person struggling to cope with the COVID restrictions.

Posted Nov 21, 2020

No author listed, pxfuel, Public Domain
Source: No author listed, pxfuel, Public Domain

Some of my friends, family, and clients, seem unaffected by the COVID restrictions. Indeed, some introverted or work-centric people find it a net positive.

But many other people are getting increasingly distraught, especially in light of the urgings to stay home through the holiday season, and that despite months of social distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing, closed restaurants and entertainment venues, COVID cases and hospitalizations are soaring, with a record 81,000 Americans hospitalized with COVID, and 253,000 deaths.

The following composite letter encapsulates many people’s reactions, plus my response.

Dear Marty,

Sure, we’re hoping that tests of the COVID vaccines on a larger sample will support their being effective and safe. But in the meantime, the media relentlessly reminds us that in terms of the spread, we’re no better than when we started and are spiking. I follow the rules, for example, wearing a mask even though it’s sweaty and snotty and fogs up my glasses so I can’t see.

Everyone I know is frustrated with all this but I’m worried about my own behavior: To reward myself in the limited ways that the COVID restrictions allow, I’m eating and drinking too much and, now that it’s legal, I’ve even started doing weed. Perhaps most embarrassing—and I hate myself for this—I’ve been having pretty indiscriminate sex, without masks and, yes, without a condom. This is not good. Any advice?

Dear Worried,

Yes, nearly everyone I know is frustrated, and you didn’t even mention money. So many of my clients are having to tighten their belts, often many notches. Each of the following tips has helped at least one of my clients. Maybe one or more might help you:

Can you jigger the activities you mention to make them COVID-safer? For example, you enjoy eating. With any extra time the COVID restrictions provide, should you try cooking enticing new, healthy recipes that you’d find easy or a fun challenge?

If your indiscriminate sex is coming mainly from loneliness, should you reach out to current or older friends for phone calls, Zooms, or safe-enough in-person visits? If your desire for lots of sex is literal—a desire for lots of sex—please, carefully vet your partner(s), have phone or Zoom sex, and if, in person, use a condom.

Regarding drinking and weed, lectures don't work. So I’ll just invite you to invoke the Wise One within you. Should you—feeling you’re deriving sufficient pleasure for the increased risks—continue your current level of usage? Or should you moderate? Or should you replace substance use with less dangerous recreation(s)? For example, might you want to spend time on a creative activity such as painting, singing, writing, even learning magic tricks that you’d perform for friends on Zoom or, if and when safe enough, in-person?

Finally, might you take solace in the realistic possibility that a year from now, plenty of people will have been vaccinated, which would enable life to return to some semblance of normal? And if that occurs, you’ll look back on this most challenging 2020 as having had some silver linings: more relaxed pace, more time with people you care about, less car traffic.

I feel sheepish offering suggestions when many people are struggling with the COVID restrictions atop the challenges they otherwise are facing, but the aforementioned are the best I have to offer.

I read this aloud on YouTube.