The second wave, uptick, continued onslaught: Call it what you may, Covid-19 infections are surging back up across the country. Lulls in some areas are offset by fresh outbreaks in others.
Places that have flattened the curve wonder how long the respite will last. The U.S. now has more than 7.5 million cases and the CDC expects tens of thousands of new deaths in the coming weeks.
Without containment or rapid testing, we should start thinking ahead to winter, the traditional season for all manner of flu. If history serves as a guide, the coronavirus will continue to spread as we move indoors, return to school, and close windows.
The realization that things are getting worse, not better, after five months of deprivation and loss has created generalized fatigue. The crisis seems never-ending. But while we can’t summon a vaccine or stem the disease’s nefarious spread, we can do a lot to control our own responses and plans.
Sustaining readiness and thinking ahead will make this slog more tolerable, and safer. Your best defense now is to stay healthy, positive, and psychologically strong. Here are some tips to consider as you power through the coming months of uncertainty.
Don’t become complacent about COVID-19
The good news is that medical professionals ought to be better prepared than the first time around. They’ve established hospital protocols, learned lessons, and have more information about Covid-19 than at the start of the year. We know more about wearing masks and the dangers of indoors than we did when the nightmare began in January.
Important resource: Dentists: An Untapped Resource for Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
But this should not lead to complacency. As exhausting as it may be, don’t let down your guard. Maintain the good habits developed over the past five months. Continue the handwashing. Keep hands from the face. Wear masks and get spares for the long haul. Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places.
Most importantly, turn to reliable sources of information. Conflicting and incorrect reports cause confusion and unease. The CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci should be your go to’s on which to base your plans. Tune out the rest.
Make a plan
Ample studies show that contemplating the worst-case scenario and then making a plan to mitigate or cope with it lessens anxiety considerably. Taking action lends a sense of control.
If you haven’t already, update your will and arrange telemedicine with your doctor. Advise your loved ones where to find important financial documents and figure out which hospital to go to. Who would take care of the kids or your elderly parents in case you fell ill?
To avoid another round of panic buying, restock essentials today: Food, masks, medicine, gloves, wipes, sanitizer, etc. Freeze meals in case your favorite items run out when the tsunami hits. Food prices have gone up; they’ll likely rise further. Buy in bulk at Sam’s or Costco; can and grow your own vegetables and spices.
If you still have a job, sock away as much as you can in a savings account to carry you over in case of circumstances change. Ideally, set aside six months’ worth of expenses but even saving $25 a month can make a difference. Prune costs if you can.
Covid-19 precautions for the workplace
- Have a plan in place in case your region goes into lockdown again. Assess what worked, or didn’t, in the first save, and devise a rapid response for the next.
- Mentally prepare colleagues and staff that it might happen again.
- (If you’re a subordinate, ask your bosses about their plan. They may not have thought everything through and might appreciate that you have proposals.)
- Make sure that workers can assume each other’s duties in case someone falls sick, or if you can no longer afford to hire them. This may require training and sharing files; start today.
- Make sure that everyone understands the medical leave policy.
- Figure out ways to cut costs so that you don’t have to let go of staff. Can you give up the expensive office lease now that everyone is working at home? Can you put some employees on reduced schedules or pay to avoid firing anyone?
The big chill: Covid-19 plus flu
Viruses tend to peak in winter and their symptoms can resemble each other. A common rhinovirus can look like the more severe Covid-19. Get an ordinary flu shot to avoid unnecessary testing for easily avoided coughs.
- A healthy diet and regular exercise can help bolster physical resistance so it’s important to get outside as much as possible. Start thinking about how to extend the outdoor life come winter.
- Invest in layered warm clothing so that you can continue to dine al fresco, as well as watertight boots that you can comfortably walk in.
- The days will be shorter; invest in SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lights if you’re prone to the winter blues.
- Biking in winter takes some getting used to, but with the right garments and tires, you can continue to get around gusty and even snowy days. Would snowshoes, skating, and skis be an option?
- Ask your favorite restaurants if they are investing in patio heating lamps, like the ones used in ski resorts. Maybe it’s worth investing in them for your garden as well or building a fire pit that can allow for socializing outdoors as the mercury dips.
A second lockdown can feel like a debilitating setback. Be mentally prepared now that it might happen, so that it doesn’t come as a shock.
Take each day at a time, don’t project too much into the future as that will only cause more anxiety. Think about what sustained you during the first round in order to summon them up again when the next blow comes.
Accept that we don’t have control and that you’re doing the best you can. Exercise self-compassion and give yourself credit for getting through to the end of the day.
Dream up projects so that you’re actively swimming towards something that has a result. This could be as simple as tutoring the neighbor’s kids, painting rooms, or learning a new language or skill, or tutoring the neighbor’s kids. Any course of action will make you feel that there’s one part of your life that you can actively change.
Psychologists who specialize in disasters say the one factor that boosts emotional resilience in a crisis is social support and connection. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Distance yourself from anyone who has a toxic effect.
Altruism has a powerful effect on mood. There’s nothing like helping someone else to make you feel better about the world.
Take care of yourself physically, get enough sleep, and exercise, and eat well. Being fit will boost your physical endurance in case you fall sick and it will also help you cope with the anxiety.
Try to build these healthy habits into your daily routine.
Lastly, set aside something to look forward to each day. Banish doom scrolling, particularly before going to bed. Pursue something that centers you – comedic t.v. shows, reading to the little ones, meditation, playing with the dog, singing, painting, journaling.
And remind yourself – this won’t last forever. You can get through it.
Judith Matloff is an award-winning journalist of four decades who has taught crisis reporting at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for twenty years. She is the senior safety advisor of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the author of four books. The latest, How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope to Never Need: Survival Tricks for Hacking, Hurricanes, and Hazards Life Might Throw at You provides survival advice for nearly every peril that we face today, including natural disasters, rape, cyber hacking, and medical emergencies.
Matloff has pioneered safety training for women and journalists around the world, teaching hundreds of people to survive an increasingly dangerous world. Her crisis expertise was honed as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and The Christian Science Monitor, covering various wars, health emergencies, genocide, and repressive regimes. She has also written for the New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, Forbes, Newsweek, The Economist and the Financial Times.
Matloff earned her BA at Harvard. She has won support from the MacArthur Foundation, Hoover Institution at Stanford, Fulbright Program, and was a Logan Narrative Nonfiction fellow at the Carey Institute for Greater Good.