I will say this for the Covid pandemic: It has caused me to relax in ways I never anticipated. Now that I’ve adjusted to the changes in my life and figured out how to work this new normal, I’ve enjoyed the most relaxed summer I’ve had since the 80’s. (And those were summers when I was in college and everything was easy.) I haven’t been this unwound in decades.
Yes, there’s a constant humming anxiety running beneath the surface of everything. How long will this last? Will people I love be affected? Will I? What will new normal look like? And, yes, there’s a fair amount of anger, sometimes even rage, at the way things have gone/are going. But I’ve learned to shelve much of it, to get beyond it, into a place of relative calm.
One benefit of something like Covid happening is that it tends to put other stuff into perspective. The things I’m usually anxious about now mostly wash right over me. They’re not important in the grand scheme of things, and I’ve been very happy to realize that my brain still has the capacity to make the distinction. Sure, Covid is terrible, but it’s been better than drugs at managing my everyday, free-floating anxiety.
Perhaps surprisingly, Covid has even given me a sense of agency. The science is pretty clear at this point on how to reduce infection risk. Mask. Distance. Outdoors, not indoors. Quick hits of time in public rather than long, lingering events. No physical contact. Hygeine. Plus keep up with the usual rules of good health like getting adequate sleep, eating well, and exercising. I know what to do to increase my chances of surviving this mess, and that makes the anxiety manageable. It’s weird. You’d think Covid would make everything worse, but it hasn’t. I know what to do, and do it without fail. It’s not 100% (nothing in life ever is), but my fate isn’t necessarily sealed.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a huge introvert. There’s nowhere to go, so no need to feel bad about being an introvert. In a season of outings and travels, it’s normally odd to stay home and not participate in gatherings and BBQ’s. But now? Being an introvert is easy, and socially acceptable. I’m not suffering the way some people are becuase they require social time to function. For me, it’s been a relief to be able to unapologetically decline social outings and events that don’t make me happy.
Even things that remain necessary aren’t as time consuming or stressful as they used to be. Clients don’t demand in-person meetings anymore. Doctor’s appointments are well-timed affairs now, not endless hours spent sitting in a waiting room. The doctor doesn’t want me in there any longer than necessary, so they’ve been better at spacing appointments. Taking the car in for maintenance, or handling anything else that must be done in person is the same way. In and out and minimal contact. Nobody wants me in their place of business any more than I want to be there, so everything is hyper-efficient now.
I do most of my shopping online, so there’s no driving back and forth and time spent in checkout lanes. I shopped a lot online before this, but I’ve really gotten good at it now and can source just about everything without leaving the house. If I do need to go to a store, store pickup makes everything easier. Order, go pick it up, no contact with others, and no wasted time.
Online shopping also presents a break from the overstimulation of stores. There are no bright lights, and no crowds. And there’s no “in your face” avalanche of choices and advertising. I know what I need, look it up, and ignore the rest. I don’t have to wade through fifty kinds of cereal or a rearranged store when I know I want the Raisin Bran. It makes shopping a much more peaceful experience.
Financially this has been good, too. No impulse buys as there would be if I were in a regular store. Far fewer trips to the gas station becuase I’m not going anywhere. No money spent on dining out, movies, or other entertainment because there isn’t anywhere to go. I’ve been saving money without really trying, and that leads to lower stress in other areas.
Even entertainment is more relaxing. No sports are on TV and network shows aren’t in production, so there’s far less to watch, or worry about missing. There’s no FOMO when there aren’t any new movies to discuss (or anyone to discuss them with). Leisure time is driven by conscious choice: “What will I watch on Netflix tonight?” or “I’ll spend time on my hobbies,” or “I think I’ll read that new book,” rather than mindless channel surfing or blanking out entirely due to having too many choices. Even doing nothing is a conscious choice now, not one brought on by exhaustion or laziness.
And the amount of time I suddenly have is incredible. With daily life stripped to the bare essentials (and much of what remains handled in more efficient ways), there’s much more time for hobbies and other activities. I always thought that I had a lot of free time before because I work hard to streamline my life, but now it’s almost embarrassing how much time there is.
Of course I realize that much of this is because I’m privileged to have a stable job and no kids. I don’t have to worry about schooling and entertaining kids, or dealing with constant virus exposure in my work. For others it’s very different and I’m empathetic and sympathetic to those realities. I only wish to point out that I thought Covid would send me into a spiral of anxiety and depression and the result has been the opposite. I’m actually a bit liberated from my usual problems and finding new, better ways to live. Perhaps others can find something to take from my experience, to look to the brighter sides of this pandemic rather than the darkness.
(Image by Kevin Sanderson)