I hate 2020. It’s the worst year I can remember. Between the pandemic, the shutdown, the plunging economy, the overloaded medical system, the mask debate, and the looming elections, I can’t remember a worse one.
And it’s not over yet.
From doctors to politicians, all those who know what they’re talking about, and some who don’t, think that the coming winter will be worse. And, unlike the calendar, winter doesn’t end with December. We’re talking months of the 2020 misery compounded by short days, bad weather, and socially isolated winter celebrations.
How will we stay alive and slightly sane until it’s over?
That’s what I asked myself as I listened to the news while struggling to zip my raincoat to take the dog out in the nasty rain – after cleaning the puddle in the dining room.
Organized as always, I made a list you may find useful. If you happen to be one of those who don’t need a social life, don’t worry about money, and don’t long for spring, feel free to share your recipe with us, the humans. We’ll all think of you lovingly. As for me, this is my list.
1. Accept reality. No matter how much you wish, it wasn’t so, this is the reality we all live in. Denying it won’t make it go away. It will just make it harder to deal with it.
2. Get ready for more shutdowns. That’s what happened to France, Great Britain, and others. It may happen here. Stock what you’ll need, besides toilet paper. A generator? Your medications? Batteries? Hair dye?
3. Behave like you may have the virus, even at home. Don’t share your cutlery, your glass, your toothbrush. Wash your hands often, and don’t lick the kids’ ice-cream.
4. Make a plan in case you get sick. How will you self-isolate? Who’ll care for the kids? Walk the dog? Speak to those who’ll have to take over.
5. Start a project and set deadlines. Whether it’s cleaning the pantry, training the cat, or becoming vegetarian, committing to a project will make time go faster. And give you something to brag about.
6. Rest. Tired people make mistakes, get compassion fatigue, and lose touch with the joy in their life. Say no to that extra shift. Health trumps money.
7. Learn a new skill. The internet is full of online courses. You can learn anything, from dog training to poker, as you sit on your sofa. Whether it’s photography, knitting, or getting a degree, use this time to enrich yourself.
8. Do something you enjoy every day. Watch a movie, quilt, take a hot bath. Doing something you love will lower your stress and help keep you sane.
9. Work out every day. Whether it’s kickboxing, chair yoga, or walking the dog, working out will make you healthier, stronger, and happier.
10. Do something to make others happy. Bake a cake for your coworkers, grab some groceries to help your neighbor, or call Grandma, even if she’s not sure who you are. Making others happy will give you purpose and joy.
11. Watch your weight. Few say it, but obesity is a substantial COVID risk factor. Not great for your heart and joints, either. If you’re overweight, losing weight will help keep you healthy.
12. Connect with people. Call your high-school buddies, look up your old friends, send a birthday card to your ex. Connecting, even virtually, will help keep you grounded.
13. Make a plan for the winter celebrations. Avoid large gatherings. Look for alternatives: a Zoom Thanksgiving dinner, mailing stocking stuffers, meet for a hike. But if you must meet in person, don’t go if you’re sick, social distance, and keep the windows open.
14. List your happy memories: Your first time fishing; your son’s graduation; your wedding (or your divorce). Make a list and put it on the fridge for those pesky low days.
15. Stay in touch with your doctor. No matter who says what, your doctor wants you to be well. If for no other reason, because they’re already overworked. Follow their instructions, take your medications, and call them if you’re having trouble.
16. Take time for yourself. Find a couple of hours every week to check on your inner self. Are you hanging from a thread? If you’re losing it, seek help. It’s not wimpy. It’s smart.
17. Turn off the news. No matter what, half of us will feel broken after the elections. There’s no point in rubbing salt in the wound – yours or others’. If you lose, remember that that’s democracy. Everybody’s vote counts. In four years, you’ll get a redo. If you win, remember that so many are mourning. Don’t be a sore winner. Let them grieve.
18. Wear a mask. It will protect you not only from COVID but also from the flu and pesky colds. The flu season is here, and the flu sucks. You’ll be even more miserable if you get sick.
19. Be kind to others. Most people aren’t evil. Their mistakes are born of ignorance, anger, or hurt, and we can all use some learning.
20. Finally, remember that this too shall pass.
Good luck, stay safe, and stay sane. As always, I can’t wait to hear from you.
Rada Jones is an ER doc in Upstate NY, where she lives with her husband and his deaf black cat Paxil. She is the author of three ER thrillers, Overdose, Mercy and Poison, and “Stay Away From My ER,” a collection of medical essays.