COVID-19: How I’m Keeping Myself Sane and Others Safe
I know we all have been hearing about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for several months now. What once felt like a distant threat–a mere passing headline occasionally on the nightly news in places faraway–is now all of our reality. For me, life drastically changed almost two weeks ago. Throughout the week of March 9th, I began to feel the imminent threat of the virus more palpably. We officially began working from home on the 13th. My daughter’s last day of school was the same day, and I took what I knew would be my last in person yoga class that same evening. As I laid in savasana, I allowed myself to feel the fear, uncertainty and anger that I had been shoving down all week. I shed a tear for knowing I won’t be practicing in a place I love for some time, for my daughter who won’t be around her friends, for my life as the way I am used to living it. But most of all, I felt deeply for the people who will be forever touched by COVID-19. And part of what I felt is fear for myself and my family, and the hope that we will be spared.
Like everyone, the days since I began social distancing have been long: some bad, some good. Initially I struggled that the most I can do to help others is to stay away from them. I am doing this for my dad, who is extremely at risk. I am doing this for healthcare workers who are on the front lines; social distancing helps flatten the curve and gives them a chance. I am doing this for my friends who are pregnant, my friends who are essential workers and cannot stay home.
Because you should do something, and because it’s the best and right thing to do does not always make it easy. As I have said, I still have bad days. But I am offering to anyone the things that have helped me through the past two weeks, and am offering in the hopes they may help you too.
- I got off Facebook. I quickly realized all of the COVID-19 posts were sending me into a panic spiral. I’m not saying I didn’t know the threat without Facebook. But the barrage of information was anxiety inducing for me. I have felt demonstrably better since deleting Facebook a week ago. I have never used Twitter and don’t watch 24/7 news, but I would imagine those could have similar effects. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I urge you to consider limiting the ways in which you let information about COVID-19 affect you.
- Going outside. I am lucky enough to have a big backyard, and a child who would rather never be indoors. Whether we are just sitting on our deck talking, digging through our compost pile for worms, drawing with chalk or going on a walk, being outdoors helps immensely with social distancing. I can’t wait to plant our vegetable garden soon.
- Running and a yoga home practice. I generally run about 10-15 miles a week, so by no means am I an avid runner, but it is something I do regularly. I typically run on a treadmill, but have moved all of my runs outdoors, weather permitting. My mood drastically improves, and good cardiac health is tied to long term health benefits. I have also begun a yoga home practice. I am ecstatic that the studio I practice at is now offering some online classes. Physical exercise has always been my best way to combat anxiety.
- Limit myself on the information I consume. Somewhat related to 1), I am being very intentional about the information I consume about COVID-19. I have signed up for this newsletter, which offers data and information. For me, reading data itself, without editorializing from the media or commentary from a friend posting on social media helps me be aware without feeling anxious or panicking. I also signed up for alerts through the City of Birmingham and monitoring the Jefferson County Department of Health’s website (sidenote: I have always done this everyday, checking for draft permits that may be posted. While JCDH and Dr. Wilson are doing a phenomenal job addressing COVID-19, I really miss checking the site only for air permits. Sigh). WBHM is also a great resource that I turn on in the morning, if I feel I need some information first thing.
- FaceTime and zoom. Whether it’s family, friends, my daughter’s friends, I am FaceTiming someone at least 3 times a day. GASP staff and interns are regularly meeting via Zoom. While I really miss seeing and spending time with everyone (really intensely missing Sunday park playdates), this helps me feel connected.
- Supporting local businesses. The big guys like Amazon are going to reign supreme during this time. And we do need them right now. But we can’t forget our friends who own small businesses, especially locally. I have bought extra Zyrtec (kind of not cool how COVID-19 is intersecting with allergy season) at Crestwood Pharmacy. One of my dear friends owns Rib It Up, and they have a drive through! Villager Yoga is offering online classes and I bought this awesome shirt to support a good cause and to help advocate for social distancing.
I also want to assure you that all of us at GASP are still working to fulfill our mission. Now, more than ever it is critical to educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality, and to address air pollution (because the last thing we need is COVID-19 and air pollution threatening our health). We are all in this together, and I hope some of what I share can help you through social distancing and this scary, uncertain and isolating time.
A native of Birmingham, Haley earned her B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and a master’s in Public Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Haley focused her studies at Cumberland on a career in public policy and expanded that focus by obtaining an MPA. Haley began working on statewide policy issues in 2013.
Haley is an active member of the Birmingham community. She is a member of the Junior League of Birmingham and the League of Women Voters. She’s also involved with the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform movement. Haley is an advocate for comprehensive, long-term policies that promote health and equality in Alabama.
Email: [email protected]
Haley joined GASP in 2014 as our programs manager and was named staff attorney in 2016. She has a B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and a master’s in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.