Coping with the new normal

I was supposed to be in the city this afternoon for an appointment with Dr W concerning cancer #3 which is located in my thyroid. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen. Clinic visits are being restricted to only the most urgent cases while people like myself are required to make do with a phone call from the doctor. Had I been in the office, Dr W would have done an ultrasound to determine whether or not there has been any change to my thyroid since I last saw him six months ago. We both agreed that that would have been the best scenario. If I was able to have an ultrasound done in the community where I live, we might have gone with that option, but the closest place that I could do that would be the hospital located an hour away. Since we both know that a hospital is a higher risk location than his clinic would be, we agreed that that wouldn’t be a good choice. Instead, we wait. We wait until the Covid-19 threat passes and I’m able to see him in his office again. He’s predicting June or July, but no one knows for sure. We wait and we pray that the cancer doesn’t grow or spread; that the additional two or three months doesn’t make a difference.

I was also planning to stop into the University Hospital dental clinic this afternoon to pick up a supply of the fluoride gel that I use once a day to protect my teeth from harmful effects of the radiation that I received after cancer #2 was surgically removed.  Thankfully, though, that can be sent to me by mail.

As we enter the fourth week since our province declared a state of emergency and services began to shut down, we’ve all experienced many changes. Most, like accessing my fluoride, have been fairly simple to deal with, while others, like not being able to see Dr W and have my scheduled ultrasound, are more challenging and may have serious long term effects.

Thankfully, for retirees like hubby and I, the impact of Covid-19 has thus far been easier to bear than it has been for many others. We don’t have a business to close, jobs to lose, or children to teach at home. Nevertheless, the novelty of staying home 24/7 wears pretty thin and many of the frustrations that go along with the current situation affect us all. In light of this, I thought I’d share a few things that are helping me deal with our new normal.

Routine.  I like routine at the best of times, but it’s even more important in times of uncertainty. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible or spontaneous, but having some structure to my day really helps keep me on an even keel.

Adequate sleep.  I try to go to bed at night and get up in the morning at about the same time each day. That takes a bit of self-discipline. I tend to be a night owl and I could easily stay up way too late, but I know that I function best if I get about 8 hours of sleep a night. Thankfully, in spite of the fact that I’ve had a couple of nights where odd dreams that probably indicate an elevated stress level have kept me from sleeping well, most nights have not been like that and I feel well rested.

Exercise.  I’m very fortunate that, unlike many people who are finding it difficult to exercise because their gyms have closed, I have everything I need here at home. Monday to Friday my day begins with a 25 minute exercise routine that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance. Our basement gym consists of a treadmill, two weight benches, and a large assortment of free weights. Three afternoons a week find me down there lifting weights and on the alternate days, I either walk on the treadmill or outdoors. Sunday is usually a day of rest.

Healthy diet.  If anything, we’ve been eating better than ever since the beginning of this pandemic because I’ve been a little more intentional about meal planning. That started three weeks ago when we visited five grocery stores in one afternoon and found their meat departments almost empty! Thankfully, the shortage didn’t last and I’ve since been able to add enough to the freezer to last us quite awhile. We keep very little unhealthy snack food in the house, so even with many more hours at home, we haven’t been tempted to fill up on junk food.

Spiritual nourishment.  Prayer and Bible reading are regular parts of my daily routine that help keep me balanced. We’ve been missing the opportunity to meet in person on Sunday mornings, but we’ve been enjoying church online.

News, but not too much!  I don’t want to live with my head buried in the sand, but at the same time, I don’t want to become obsessed with every detail of what’s going on. I’ve continued my habit of reading the news after breakfast every morning. We subscribe to one newspaper online. I check the world, national, and local news each day, but I very seldom read editorials. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching our provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health give her daily Covid-19 update each afternoon online, but I don’t watch TV news.

Connection.  Staying in touch with friends and family by phone and online has been a vital part of staying sane. I enjoyed a lovely visit with a group of girlfriends via Zoom one evening last week and we’ve also enjoyed chats with several of our grandchildren.

Purpose.  It think one of the key ingredients to coping throughout the ups and downs of life and perhaps more than ever right now is having a sense of purpose. In addition to the usual day to day activities like meal preparation and exercising, I’ve been cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen cabinets and I’ve been using Duolingo to learn Spanish! Of course, there’s also the blog! Writing it and connecting with all of you gives me so much pleasure!

The one thing that I’d like to be doing more of these days is getting outdoors, but we seem to trapped in a never ending winter. Our snow is usually gone by the end of March, but not so this year. There’s lots of sunshine in the forecast though and our daytime temperatures are beginning to inch up over 0ºC (32ºF), so perhaps this too shall pass just as we know the pandemic will.

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So, my friends, how are you coping? What are some things that are helping you get through these most unusual times?