Are you “over” COVID, either literally (as in you got it and got well), or just done with social distancing, masks, and the pandemic in general? Then like me, you’re none too pleased to hear new variants are on the rise just as fewer people are taking precautions, such as getting updated boosters.
All this is happening as we prepare for Thanksgiving and other winter holidays, and the possibility of getting together with family we may have seldom seen for years. Is anyone else worried about surges and spikes and new strains?
As much as we want the pandemic to be over, there’s no getting around the fact that many of us will be gathering indoors in the coming months. How can we manage the worry we feel about catching the virus on top of other anxieties that come when families gather? In America, we’re politically divided, so you may be sharing a table with people who have opposite views from your own.
I’ve written about how to anticipate what may come up, ground yourself with your breathing and slow the scene down so you can let comments roll off your back. We’ve talked about the power of gratitude, and how keeping a gratitude journal causes an upward spiral of mental health and well-being. Remembering to take in a feeling of gratitude for a few breaths, enriching and absorbing the good feeling, causes the positive mental state to push to a neural trait, rewiring your brain for happiness and resilience. I am grateful for vaccines and boosters and being able to get together for a holiday that is supposed to be about giving thanks.
Still, many people have anxiety about catching long COVID, getting the virus on top of having lung disease or compromised immunity, or transmitting it to frail loved ones. What’s a person to do?
If you find yourself feeling overcome by worry over your family gathering, SNAP it!
Remember, SNAP stands for:
Put your hands where you find them soothing. For me, it’s over my heart.
Name the Emotion
I will say, “Oh, that’s anxiety,” or “This is crazy-making.”
There are countless tools available. One of the simplest is to ask yourself what you need to hear right now. For me, I just say, “Julie, sweetheart, you’re controlling what can be controlled and the rest you just have to let go and hope for the best. Because you can’t make yourself crazy and you need to live your life.”
I pat myself on the back and say, “Alright, you calmed yourself down. Good job using your practice.” And I give thanks to the teachers, thanks to the universe, and thanks for being able to snap out of troubling emotions.
We are in a weird moment where we want the pandemic to be over — we are finished with the pandemic, but the virus is not finished with us. So, we weigh our variables and live our lives.
This morning when I was teaching my Wednesday morning meditation, one of my participants shared how she is just getting out and playing music in bands after losing her husband during the pandemic. He didn’t have COVID, but he got another infection after a lung transplant and didn’t make it. Now she is weighing the worry about playing indoors with the joy of being able to perform again in front of an audience.
I recently returned from a trip to Australia and stayed well despite flying and being in unmasked airport crowds. I kept my mask on in the airport terminals but took it off once in the air on the long legs of the flights. A week after returning home, my housekeeper caught COVID for the second time and I got exposed. After already fighting it off once last January (luckily, after being vaxxed and boosted), I sure don’t want to get it again.
I carry an N95 mask with me and put it on or take it off based on what I determine to be the level of risk, and I don’t feel anxious about it. I wear a mask in the grocery store or the drug store, but if I go into a boutique or Home Depot and there’s almost nobody else there, I don’t.
I recently went to see Cara, one of my twin daughters, perform with her band in a bar. It was a launch party for one of her new musical projects called Moondaddy. Nobody was wearing a mask and I just decided to take mine off and enjoy myself. The same weekend I was at the La Jolla Playhouse for a performance, where masks are still mandatory, so everybody had them on, which felt uncomfortable on my face, but more comfortable emotionally! The night before, we went to a show at UCSD where masks were not required. There were probably 60 people there, and maybe eight were wearing masks, including my husband and myself.
The good thing now is that you don’t get a weird look when you’re wearing a mask. It’s just a personal choice. And because it’s not a law, I don’t have the urge to give people the evil eye if they’re not doing it. That takes out the self-righteous policing piece, which feels better in my body! I’ve also decided that hand shaking is a thing of the past — I’m fist bumping from here on out!
So, this holiday season, remember to practice SNAP when you feel yourself starting to worry. We can weigh our risks, not make ourselves crazy, and live our lives.
My new book “SNAP! From Chaos to Calm,” should be out by the winter holidays, everywhere books are sold, to remind us again how to snap out of it!
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