Monday, October 19, 2020

Gratitude in a Pandemic -- Staying Positive is Good Medicine

By Cal Orey

Gratitude can be a potent Rx for strength during a contagion. As I sit in my cabin in the mountains, there are things I can do to improve my outcome and stay healthy. 

I remember in the film “One True Thing” Meryl Streep’s character who was stricken with cancer explained  appreciation to her daughter who never seem satisfied. It’s called gratitude. And we all can muster it up this Thanksgiving -- and use it as a stay healthy potion every day to help us get through the dark pandemic tunnel.

The World Is Half Empty – or is It Half Full?

Sure, I’d rather be packing for a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska so I can enjoy the northern lights but it can’t happen (not now) because I would have to quarantine for 14 days up north.  And no Canada for me because the borders are closed. At home I cannot go swim because the pool is closed. I cannot go gambling because it doesn’t feel super safe. And I eat at home because the indoor restaurants are still semi-closed or boarded shut.

But, there are things to be grateful for (right now), and gratitude reminds me how much I do have, even while I feel grounded. I am living at Lake Tahoe – a popular tourism hub. It is off season and the vibrant colors of fall are here. I can savor them while driving my always happy Australian Shepherd around the Lake. I have not gotten the virus and I still have work, even though it’s less than more. And my sibling is now working remotely – not driving Uber. So, I can exhale and not worry, “Will he infect me or the dog?” My point is, there are always things to be grateful for (even now), and gratitude reminds us how fortunate our lives are, even under spooky times with tons of uncertainty.

According to shrinks -- it is possible to stay, well "positive." But, as a seasoned health journalist and intuitive (yep, I predicted the pandemic) I am more of a realist. This, in turn, means have Plan B, stay calm, and the adage, "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst" is how we do to survive. In other words, I am a devout follower of Dr. Fauci.

A Time to Be Happy, Not Worry

As we go through this journey with ups and downs and controversy paired with during stay at home suggestions to physical distancing, and wearing masks, it's stressful! Best to breathe, brew a cup of chamomile, and chillax for your heart's sake. Yep, looking on the bright side of what you have and what you don't have is heart-healthy! 

I will take you through a few things you can think about each and every day.  In the a.m., my fave time I always brew a cup of Joe, go back to my bed with the Aussie and Siamese and cuddle up. Sweet solitude.

·       Thanks for the frontline workers: First, go back in time to March when the pandemic hit the U.S. You, like me, probably went into panic mode. We rushed to the grocery store(s) and stocked up on emergency supplies. It was an “ah ha” moment when toilet paper to flour was AWOL. But we got what we needed, eventually, even bonded and laughed with our family and social media friends to get through the chaos. Speaking of stores…

·        Thanks for our family: You, like me, may have noticed the bond with family members, whether it is the spouse or sibling, cat or dog, has gotten stronger – not weaker. Instead of taking our loved ones for granted we have had the time to realize how much we rely on one another to get through the hardship of the unknown during uncertain times. This is what humans do.

·        Thanks for our faraway friends. Sure, no huge parties or face-to-face get-togethers like we’re used to for now. However, a dangling conversation via the Internet with a friend 3,000 miles away or a phone call to someone in another country who is experiencing what we’re all going through in this pandemic bonds us. It’s sharing similar challenges and feelings. It’s real. It’s called connecting on a deeper level.

The Tough Get Tougher -- and Stay Mindful

Also, it helps to go back in time to past challenges – really big ones. As a boomer these times come to mind. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the death of John F. Kennedy, the loss of my mother and father, and hitchhiking across America without a penny and only my dog, and dumped by a significant other after a decade of loyalty -- and a major 1989 SF Quake. The thing is, I, and perhaps you, too, have survived rude events. But we keep moving forward. And, it helps to be prepared -- not scared.

Often, we become complacent and forget what we have and how good we have it. For instance, a year ago, I realized I could jump on a jet plane and fly out of the country, not budget my money, and never thought twice about my good health. Nowadays, I realize I took a lot of what I had for granted. I was blessed to have the luxury of doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.

During uncertain times, there are restrictions. So, we gravitate toward others. Each and every day we realize wherever we are we are grateful to enjoy being able to enjoy the little things even though the bigger things are not available. Not now. Tough times help make us tougher and able to see the big picture and what really matters: Humanity and our planet.

The World Turns with Gratefulness

Have you noticed you’ve learned to adapt to a new normal? Sure, we still get our food, eat our meals, watch movies (at home), and communicate to people who are doing the same. We sleep, and even work – it’s just a bit different with bumps in the road as we go through the motions of living in a pandemic. But if we have our health it makes it a lot easier – and this is something to be thankful for, right?

So, we may weather a second wave of the virus. Or not. Worse, another strain of a plague could happen. But we only can control what we do, day by day. Whether you choose to believe the virus is a hoax or realize it may be very real – it’s a moot point. The most important thing to remember is life is forever changing and nothing stays the same. But as the clock ticks, it’s time to show appreciation for today – and it will give you hope for a brighter tomorrow. According to Harvard Medical School, staying on the positive track can help you get through tough times.

The bottom line: Thanks for having frontline workers, family, and friends can indeed help us mentally and physically feel better and stay stronger during tough times. After all, we’re all in this pandemic together, for better or worse. And like past challenges, we will get through this together and be thankful when it is over. Why? We will be able to embrace the world -- once again -- probably in the Spring when signs of renewal and bright light arrive.

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