Eric Paul Justin, MD, MPH, MBA | 1 May 2020

When I was a child I was terribly bothered by something that now I cannot even remember. Back then it dominated my daily life. My school work suffered. My friends noticed too. It was such a dark and taboo ‘thing’ that had appeared in my mind, in my life. It would not go away.

My Mom was a family doctor. She was a good listener. And so we finally talked about ‘the thing,’ my dark secret. She asked me some questions and she listened to me as we talked for quite a while. I was able to talk more and more openly about how frightened and bothered and angry I was. All because of something that I thought was akin to the End of the World.

There was no pill or other medical solution for my problem. She resorted to something  much more useful. In fact I have used it most of my life. She started by teaching me the word “moratorium.” The non-legalistic definition (Merriam Webster) is simple:  “a suspension of activity.”

She taught me that every time I thought about my ‘problem’ I was  engaged in the ‘activity.’ And she taught me I was in control of my own activity. I couldn’t deny that. But how did that help? The dark thoughts just crept back into my mind and thoughts.

Simply allow oneself to think of nothing else but the problem or issue. Set aside twenty minutes once or twice a day to focus on what is of concern. But always remember to set that concern aside once you have ‘worried’ or thought about it. No, it won’t go away completely. And it might lead to thoughts and questions that at times cause more concern. But remember, thinking about something is a choice. It is an activity that you own. Once you are done thinking about dark concerns start the moratorium.

Each of us has ‘dark corners of our mind’ that we have dealt with during our lives. Hopefully we have resolved those issues or at least ‘come to grips’ with the problems and people involved. But now we are all in the shadow of a huge, gloomy cloud we’ll call Pandemic. Our lives have changed. Our lives are threatened. Our society seems torn apart. At times it seems less and less clear who and what to believe. Even our dreams have changed dramatically.

If we are not careful all of our waking hours can be dominated by Pandemic and the gigantic shadow it casts on each of us. Impose a moratorium on Pandemic! Or rather impose a moratorium on thinking and stewing about Pandemic. Perhaps you need five minutes a few times a day. Maybe longer stretches of time are necessary. Schedule and control those episodes when you allow yourself to think of Pandemic. And then move on.

Impose the moratorium. Be ready, plan ahead! Have someone to talk with or something to do when done with dwelling on Pandemic. Clear Pandemic from your thoughts.

Of course, what has worked for me may not work as well for you or at all. Each of us has learned to cope with problems during our lives and many may not need some different way of dealing with Pandemic. Common to all of us is the precious value of listening to another’s voice, sharing memories, thoughts, and even concerns about Pandemic. I know that I treasure every conversation with family, friends, and pretty much anyone so much more since Pandemic has made it harder to be together and share each other’s lives.

Along with each of our methods of coping should also be an ongoing awareness of what to do and what not to do as individuals. Basics to remember:

  • Social distancing (6 feet or more separation)
  • Use a face mask when going out of your home.
  • Frequent hand washing (20 seconds or more) OR use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid people who are coughing and/or sneezing; when you cough or sneeze do so into a handkerchief or into your own sleeve.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Clean surfaces in your home.
  • Review your risk factors as to whether you should go out from your home. If you have questions a call to your doctor’s office is recommended.

As Spring unfolds before our eyes keep watch. You might see an unexpected creature or two like the small snail descending the front of our house this morning (below). Or the dew drops on our hostas. Keep an eye on the peonies too! They are getting ready to burst into blossoms just in time for Memorial Day.

God’s Blessings on you. Stay safe and be well.

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