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Living in the novel corona virus pandemic

We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has touched every life in some way — either by being infected or by merely participating in daily activities of living.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the novel corona virus can cause mild to severe symptoms such as fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, respiratory distress — even death.

Furthermore, the virus is easily transmitted by person-to-person contact through droplets while talking, coughing, or sneezing. Some experts propose that the virus may even spread by airborne transmission.

The CDC and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) set clear guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Precautions such as social distancing, wearing a face covering and hand washing are strongly recommended and mandated in some geographical regions. So, what is it like to simply live in these turbulent times?

We cannot do many of the things we used to do because we may become infected and transmit the infection to others — especially those who are vulnerable. We cannot demonstrate affection for a friend with a kiss or warm embrace.
We cannot greet a client with a firm handshake. We cannot gather with family, friends and colleagues. We cannot attend parties, spend a day at the beach or spend an evening at the movies.

We cannot attend services in our houses of worship or enjoy a meal at a favorite restaurant as we used to do. High school and college graduates cannot share their special milestone of commencement with loved ones.

Proms, dances, senior class trips, and other social gatherings of large numbers have halted for the time being. Some businesses have closed or experienced a major decline in productivity, leading to job loss or reduction in pay for many Americans.

Many times, we cannot even sit at the bedside of a loved one who is hospitalized and spend his or her final moments together. Furthermore, when our loved one dies, memorial services and funerals are conducted differently from in the past.

COVID-19 has created a “new normal” for us all. We are experiencing life differently now. For instance, professional and civic meetings and events are taking place by phone conference or via social media platforms such as Zoom, YouTube and Facebook.

Many employees are working from home. More customers are shopping online, curbside, or by delivery. Healthcare providers are visiting patients via telehealth. Classrooms are getting smaller and going virtual. A significant number of children will learn at home. They cannot see or play with their friends as they used to.  Many educational programs are becoming hybrid.

The emotional fallout of these new ways of living is noteworthy. According to the CDC, pandemics can be stressful. Continually watching TV news programs or reading about the outbreak can lead to stress.

Difficulty in sleeping and concentrating may be caused by stress. Pre-existing mental health conditions may be worsened. For instance, isolation and quarantine may aggravate depression. The isolation of stay-at-home orders and quarantine can lead to loneliness and boredom.

So, how can we move forward in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak? Be creative about how we engage with others. Be mindful of how our actions, or inaction, may affect others. Stay informed of and follow the dynamic CDC and MSDH guidelines.

But, take breaks from watching the news. Eat healthy foods and balance rest with exercise. Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself.

Sarah M. Ware, PhD, RN, CNE, is a retired nurse educator and Natchez resident.

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