Updated: May 20, 2020
I contracted COVID-19 on a trip to New York to celebrate a friend's birthday, March 6- 8. Dozens of people at the party would later become ill. I first noticed symptoms on March 10. I had a sore throat and a headache. Soon after, I developed a low-grade fever that lasted two days. In another few days I developed a dry cough. As the week came to a close, I noticed my lung capacity was a little diminished and I was easily winded, though I was able to hold my breath for 10 seconds. My senses of taste and smell were compromised. My husband contracted COVID-19 too. His symptoms and timing were similar to mine, though a little more severe. Our children did not develop any symptoms. Within two weeks, I felt recovered. My husband and I did not require or receive any medical attention.
Those are the facts. Lucky for me, they were very manageable. But man, oh man, there were A LOT of thoughts and feelings that demanded attention. There still are. I recently took pencil to paper to reflect on the facts, feelings and thoughts of my experience with COVID-19.
While this timeline isn't comprehensive or exact, drafting it really brought home how our emotions, and the stories we create around the facts of our lives, really define our experience. In this exercise, the feelings and thoughts outnumber the facts 3:1. And for sure they consumed way more of my attention, as I swung between high and low. A COVID-19 meme for this phenomenon is "coronacoaster." My coronacoaster included almost-daily doses of anxiety, frustration, fear, but also optimism, gratitude and relief. When I wrote it out I was surprised to see negative feelings outnumbered positive ones. Honestly, I most recall feeling equanimity, gratitude and calm. But all the emotions were there. I am incredibly grateful for my health and the health of my family. Amazingly, Eric and I did not transmit COVID-19 to our (elderly) moms, nor did we seem to infect the other people with whom we interacted during pre-symptomatic days. Now, I feel safe from the virus, and feel special that I am able to donate convalescent plasma to potentially help others. I’m back to my regular hiking routines (pictures of both, below).
We can use mindfulness practice to notice when the mind jumps to unproductive conclusions, or clings to judgmental or reactive thoughts. When we notice, we have an opportunity to create some distance between us and the thought or feeling, and let it go. We can change our relationship with our thoughts, so we are less attached to and controlled by them. Doesn’t that sound especially useful during a pandemic? Perhaps we can apply some parameters of #SocialDistancing to our thoughts and call it #ThoughtsDistancing :) The emotional, financial and physical toll of COVID-19 will be with us for a while. M2 hopes to offer you tools, support and compassion to help manage it with just a little more ease.
Would you like to try an exercise to evaluate the facts and feelings of a situation that you struggle(d) with? Download and print a worksheet to guide your reflection.