September 2020

Those who cannot remember what they were doing during the Trump administration’s Coronavirus press conference are fortunate. I was working at a small consulting agency as the primary point of contact for all guests. I recall interacting with one of our company’s vendors when I overheard that an employee in our office had fallen ill and later received numerous texts from friends expressing their concerns.

At the time no one knew the severity of the virus and Americans went about everyday life as if we were invincible. The news about my fellow employee falling ill heightened my concerns about contracting and spreading the virus. For me, concerns about the ubiquitous “face-to-face corporate handshake,” and often too close, co-worker interactions became very real. As a working professional, there are occasions when you need to engage in awkward face-to-face interactions. In the workplace, you learn to adapt to assure your employer that you are capable of handling interpersonal and engaging activities, a skill one must learn immediately in the corporate environment.

As proud Americans, we often feel invincible to the tribulations experienced by people living in other parts of the world. However, the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) shook America’s sense of security and turned our country into a modern-day “Spanish flu” war zone.

Black Plague Costume Mask Curca 2021
Black Plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, Italy, circa 1656
COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 “fashionable mask”

If you recall your high school history class you may remember learning about the Spanish Flu circa 1918 through 1919 and the Black Plague circa 1347 through 1351. Both diseases caused a significant outcome on the mortality rate resulting in twenty-five million deaths within European, American, and even North African populations. Also, if you are an avid reader of British novels or a viewer of British dramas regarding the post-Edwardian era, you will recognize the face mask associated with the Black Plague.

Despite the burden of wearing face masks and assimilating them into our daily lives, the atrocities of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been morbidly cumbersome for people worldwide. From illness to death, job loss to depression, most people are having difficulty coping with a different lifestyle and “new norm.” To help us get through these challenging times, social media influencers have dedicated their time and energy to TikTok dances, promoting exercise regimes, and even creating humorous memes. So, the universal question most should ask themselves is, “What can I do to make these grim times a little easier knowing that there is no simple fix living in a pandemic?”

If you are not a gym enthusiast, watching Instagram and YouTube videos or viewing Facebook newsfeeds may feed your inspiration and aspiration. However, the inspirational buck stops when one must “work out” daily. If going for walks amidst nature seems manageable, try increasing your walking regimen to a robust calorie-reduction walk. This can seem less intimidating or draining. The first step to introduce exercise to your daily list of to-dos is as Nike proclaims, “Just do It.”

As a non-athletic person, I will admit that relying on genetic metabolism or wishes of non-calorie absorption are mere unrealistic fairytales in the world of health. The main goal of life, according to the U.S. Army, is to “Be the best you can be.” Although we can interpret the slogan in diverse ways, I interpret it as setting your own goals and working towards each goal for personal gratification. Remember the adage, “The exercise that will work best…is the exercise you will do.”

As a first step, invest in yourself: As frequently as we spend scrolling through Amazon or other shopping websites, instead, search for items that benefit our health and wellness. For example, instead of searching for clothes or home accessories, search for and purchase vitamins, probiotics, exercise equipment, exercise clothes, or motivational books to boost your spirit. After all, we do not need that additional piece of jewelry or home accessory as much as we need items that will help improve our skills, improve our health, or improve our relationships with ourselves and God. Keep in mind the goal is to spend less on superficial items. Make sure to purchase items that are needed or items that will help build a better future.

Spend time with people you love (masked): Though it sounds odd to add “masked” to spending time with our loved ones, this is the current climate and situation for most of the world. It is still important for vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear protective masks around friends, family, co-workers, and anyone we spend time with. Yes, sadly this is our new norm. As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads around the world, we must make sure that no matter the vaccination status, we must take precautions and keep our friends and family safe by wearing our protective gear.

According to the CDC, The Delta variant is 50% more contagious than the Alpha variant, which is 50% more contagious than the original COVID-19 variant originating in China. According to Yale medicine, the Delta variant infects 3 out of 4 more people than the Alpha variant which has a rate of infecting 1 to 2 out of 4 people. The new Delta variant, first detected in India circa October 2020, is now the dominant strain worldwide.

As much as we desire the virus to be over, due to the small populations of unvaccinated Americans, the Delta variant could possibly grip American society again and increase the number of hospitalizations into the next year of 2022. Only 49.2% of the United States population is fully vaccinated. So, what does that mean for the individuals who spend time with family and friends regularly? Human interaction is the bread and butter to our physical and spiritual existence. Though we have adopted a new paradigm of texting, social media, and Zoom meetings, human interaction still ranks higher in preference than the alternate communication mediums. While we all attempt to manage the psychological repercussions and social constraints of the ongoing pandemic, we must still take the time to interact with loved ones and friends for support, security, and a sense of belonging and well-being.

Try to breathe through the stress

We have all learned from medical professionals that stress suppresses the immune system. As we embark on a pandemic extension due to the new Delta variant, we must make sure we participate in all activities that support our immune system. People with high-stress levels are recorded to have higher risks of heart disease, weakened immune and neurological systems increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. As COVID-19 cases for the vaccinated and non-vaccinated population increase, the most crucial factor is to keep your immune system functioning to its full capacity. Whether you are vaccinated, consume vitamins and probiotics, and exercise. It is critical to take measures to support a healthy and functioning immune system during the pandemic. Something as simple as breathing exercises can help keep stress levels and anxiety to a minimum. Practices such as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can lower blood pressure and promote healthy lungs. When feeling overwhelmed, stressed, angry, or sad, try deep breathing exercises to reduce your heart rate and increase oxygen levels. This technique can be traced backed to ancient traditions such as yoga and tai-chi. Knowing that the COVID-19 virus damages the lungs, practicing any lung strengthening exercise can only help prepare your body for any symptoms you may endure during the pandemic.

Find a ‘Hands-on’ hobby to work on alone: The common consensus of countless people during the mandated lockdown was growing tiresome of being alone. The childless and single found themselves stuck in their homes alone and the pandemic heightened feelings of loneliness and seclusion. Senior citizens in nursing facilities experienced the most isolated. One of the best ways to counter feelings of loneliness when you are in solitude is to fill that time with a hobby. If you must be alone, why not enjoy the time to yourself and work on a hobby previously set aside for pre-pandemic social gatherings.

Thanks to social media, technology, and other devices of the 21st century, we often forsake the simplicity of manual labor and hobbies. The art of creating with your hands. Using your hands to create, build, or even garden can increase endorphins which help mitigate the physical consequences of stress and anxiety and function as a non-traditional “therapist” for anyone who does not wish to incur a hefty therapist bill.

Finally, omit anything and anyone who does not align with your spiritual goals: This does not mean to disassociate yourself from friends and family with whom you disagree or lack common ideals. It means weighing the pros and cons of having that personality type in your life. We all have that one relative or friend whose personality comes across as disagreeable or difficult, however, do not confuse personality traits with spiritual alignment. Sometimes the most disagreeable, difficult personality can be helpful, supportive, honest, loving, empathetic, and have your best interest at heart.

Learn to practice God’s gift of discernment and weed through the seemingly friendly, yet non-supportive individuals and invest time with people who want you to succeed spiritually and financially no matter the circumstances. Life experiences have taught us that sometimes the most disagreeable person can provide more support than someone you consider a close friend or relative.

The current pandemic has caused millions of people worldwide to lose their lives, and countless to lose their jobs. We must always honor their memory by protecting ourselves (wear a mask and get vaccinated, your choice); and by continuously learning and making steps towards spiritual and physical growth daily. We should live each day with positivity, having goals, empathy, and even the simplicity of lending a helping hand to our neighbors.

Remember, there will always be those whom you think have it better than you, and those who have it worse. It is all a matter of perspective.

Try to show empathy for our fellow human beings, follow the pandemic guidelines, stay positive and ultimately…be kind! While some people will come out of this pandemic unscathed, many are carrying heavy burdens. Kindness and empathy are the greatest gifts one can give during uncertain times.

References: “Planting Health: Therapeutic benefits of gardening;” Sam Schipani, 2019. “The power of deep breathing, 7 Techniques, and Exercises”, 2020.

Harvard Health Publishing, “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response,” 2020.

Mercy Care, “Health Benefits of Social Interaction,” date inconclusive.

Frontiers in Psychology, “Front. Psychol. |,” “Absence and Presence of Human Interaction: The Relationship Between Loneliness and Empathy

Batson, C. D. (2012). “The empathy-altruism hypothesis: issues and implications,” in Empathy: From Bench to Bedside, ed. J. Decety (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 41–54.

CNBC, Health, and Science: “Hospitalizations rising as Delta variant spreads,” 2021.

WebMD, “What you need to know about the Delta variant,” Carolyn Crist, 2021.

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