It has been almost 10 months since life got “locked down” due to COVID-19. This new normal has not been easy for anyone. Being significantly restricted in our daily lives, wearing masks, hearing bad news about the pandemic constantly, and working from home has changed how we live our lives. And then there are some of us who have been devastated: We may have gotten sick, suffered financial hardship, or lost someone in our family to COVID. And the social isolation we’ve all had to endure has had a deep impact on our mental health.
I have felt the social isolation personally. I am very close to my family, but they all live far away. As a recently transitioned single parent, it has been hard -- I need my sisters and parents now more than ever. I had hoped to travel by air to see them over the holidays -- first at Thanksgiving, then over Christmas -- but I knew I needed to cancel it. Because the risk of COVID is real, spread happens when we are gathered indoors, and the hospitals are overwhelmed already.
In many states, ICUs and ERs are overflowing. There aren’t enough beds, and there aren’t even enough health care workers. They are exhausted and there are just too many shifts to cover, too many patients needing care. My colleagues who are nurses and doctors in Atlanta have been fighting the battles at the frontlines -- masked, shielded more than 8 hours at a time, and ready to help, even as tired as they are. It is hot to wear that gear, and scary to step into a room where a patient can’t breathe because of COVID. These men and women, after a long shift, take off that protective equipment and go home to their families, hoping they won’t expose their children or spouses.
And overflowing hospitals can affect us even when we don’t have COVID. when the ERs and ICUs are overwhelmed with COVID cases, and the doctors and nurses have worked too many extra shifts, people coming in with other sicknesses may not get the care they need. What happens when you get sick with “normal” ailments, such as a broken ankle or an asthma attack? What happens if your mom or dad has a heart attack and needs to go into the ER?
COVID is ravaging our health system -- it’s taking out patients and our frontline workers. It is now the worst it’s been, but here’s the thing: We do have a light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccines are coming. In some countries, they will start giving the vaccine this month, and we in the U.S. will have access to them in the next few months. It will be the beginning of the end of this pandemic. It’s not far away. So who would want to get sick now?
We need to buckle down, stay home, and wear masks to protect ourselves and to salvage our hospitals and our health care workers. This is everyone’s responsibility. It may change the way we celebrate the holidays, but there are still ways to enjoy the season. Here are some things I will do with my own kids:
- Go crazy on the decorations! We will go all out with lights, Christmas trees, stockings, and decorations around the house.
- Online shopping. Get some small gifts for the kids to put under the tree -- maybe do a bit more on this if you can afford it. (And try to shop with small businesses if you can -- these business owners need our support!)
- Giving to the food bank. So many families are suffering right now, and giving makes the giver feel good too.
- Baking lots of treats. I got a bread maker and will be making homemade jam. What recipe have you always wanted to but didn’t have time? Try it now!
- Enjoy the slower pace of life right now. Soon we will be back to the rush and all the commitments of activities, school, chores etc. If there’s been a silver lining to COVID, it’s that we’ve had the chance to live at a slower pace. Make the most of it!
The pandemic has been hard for all of us -- and especially for the health care workers who have remained strong and have sacrificed so much to care for COVID patients. But there IS a solution, and it is on the way. Soon this will be behind us. Until then, let’s hunker down and get through this. And then we can raise our glass to being strong, resilient, and getting through it together.