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Slow Down, and Breathe

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Brooke Burke Charvet via AP

For most of us, the amount of change and information we have absorbed in the past few weeks is overwhelming. As humans, when we are overwhelmed, we are scared; when we are scared, we panic; and when we panic, we tend to make bad decisions. Our first goal should be to slow down and just breathe -- even if it's only for a few seconds.


Then slow down again and breathe again -- more slowly and deeply, belly breaths. Try this for at least three breaths, the lower in your belly, the better for your body -- the goal is to use your lungs and not just move your chest in and out. Now you have physically relaxed yourself, if only just a bit.

Our second goal should be to maintain our own health as much as we can. This will also give us a sense of control. Make a daily checklist. Eat right. Sleep enough. Meditate. Work out. Drink lots of water. Get outside and soak up some sunshine, if possible. And connect with other people (while remaining at least six feet away).

I am grateful that we have the internet, internet service providers and other technology that allow us to connect to one another. If this outbreak had happened while I was in high school, my sister, Kathy, our mother and I would have been fighting over who got to use the household's one phone, which had a long cord and was located in the kitchen. Use this time to learn to use technology to connect with others.

The changes have been stomach-churning. Yes, the stock market has fallen. Then it's gone up. Then it's fallen again. Where this will end, no one knows, but volatility is going to stay in the market for a while, at least until the number of new coronavirus patients begins to drop. This will happen faster if we all remain physically distant from one another.

Since the number of test kits available is still relatively small and people with mild symptoms are not being tested, the safe assumption is that anyone you "run into" could be infected and, therefore, could infect you. This is why public health authorities recommend keeping at least six feet away from others. This is also why people should stay in their homes whenever possible.


So, what else can you do? What can you control? You can wash your hands. If you feel sick staying at home, and if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, whoever else lives with you should stay home as well.

Why should you take such drastic precautions? After all, the vast majority of us will be able to fight off the coronavirus without suffering major consequences. The reason all of us need to take these steps is because some of us are at greater risk than others. For example, my sister Kathy has rheumatoid arthritis and is taking a biologic drug to help control the disease. This has compromised her immune system and left her at greater risk of coronavirus. My father, who turns 77 this year, is also at greater risk because of his age (the older the person, the great the likelihood that the coronavirus could prove fatal). My mother-in-law has had previous bouts with pneumonia, which leaves her vulnerable, too. They have all pretty much sequestered themselves in their homes.

This past weekend, I helped my second-year college student pack up her dorm room and drive home to Atlanta for the rest of the school year. This week, she starts distance learning. My son, a high school senior, also started distance learning this week. I don't know when they will go back to their brick-and-mortar schools, and I am a bit nostalgic about the social interactions that we all will be missing, but I am glad that we have the ability to connect with our friends through technology.


Physical isolation can be very hard psychologically. We can spend the time watching videos and waiting for time to pass, or we can choose to learn new skills and absorb new information. How we spend our time is the one choice each of us has. We also have the choice to find new ways to entertain ourselves, whether that involves wearing clothes we rarely wear (Kathy's idea) or trying to teach our pets new tricks (I am trying to get our cat Waffles to come on command).

While we might feel that we do not have a lot under our control, we would be wrong. We can control our actions. By physically distancing ourselves while connecting socially via technology, we can lessen the impact of COVID-19 and thereby help save lives.

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