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You aren’t the only one. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, The Struggle to Cope With Depression, reports than “more than one-third of Americans say the pandemic is having ‘a serious impact’ on their mental health,” citing a March 25 survey from the American Psychiatric Association.

Anxiety is through the roof, and crisis lines across the country have had a surge in calls. Even in normal times—whatever that is—those of us who are alone are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. The connection between depression and isolation is well known. In stay-at-home and quarantine conditions, we are absolutely alone. That black hole left by the “loss of companionship” has never loomed so large. Andrea Petersen, author of the Journal article, lists some of the new losses:

  • Network of friends
  • Sense of purpose
  • Routine
  • Support system

How are you handling the uncertainty, anxiety and fear? Do you have a sense of hopelessness and helplessness? Almost everyone I know reports drinking more wine, and liquor stores are classified as an “essential business.” But is self-medication the best choice for us?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2–4

Here are some of Petersen’s recommendations:

  • Create a new schedule and routine to give order to your life;
  • Set regular times to wake up and go to bed;
  • Schedule pleasurable activities every day, setting aside time for activities such as taking a walk and talking with friends and family.
  • Find a way you can be of assistance to others.
  • Give yourself positive feedback, such as “I can’t control the situation around me, but I can control my own actions, I can meditate, I can….” Complete the sentence with what you can do to change your response to your isolation.
  • Dwell on the positive, not the negative—what you can do, not what you can’t.

Today is my 28th day in almost total isolation. No one else has set foot inside my apartment, and I sometimes go several days without even stepping into the hall. I am doing just about everything on Petersen’s list.

Some days are harder than others, when I feel the fear, anxiety and self-pity creeping in. When that happens, I take a walk or call someone I care about. I stay busy; and while I am not excited about the endless round of cooking and cleaning, I have figured out that I function best and am happiest when my apartment is in order. In the midst of the chaos of the pandemic, I need order more than ever.

Never have I cooked so much—takeout only three times in 28 days. I’ve learned I can’t cook three meals from scratch every day. Something needs to be simple—leftovers or a quick sandwich or an egg muffin. That’s part of my routine, and I maintain a fairly scheduled mealtime. I need to have occasional special meals—like Easter dinner—when I set a pretty table and eat off good china.

I have also learned to schedule and limit my time with the news. The TV doesn’t stay on all day; and when the apartment grows too quiet, I look for music on YouTube. I spend a lot of time on social media, staying in touch with the world outside my windows.

Just as I need order, I need beauty—the pretty table, the made bed, fresh flowers, family pictures, the eye candy of Istagram.

I need to focus on gratitude—the “thank you God” moments every day.

I need to worship.

I need to seek joy.

What do you find yourself needing most?

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Author’s Note:

I find myself thankful that I have 11 years experience being alone. Much that I learned on my journey from grief to joy after Lev’s death helps me deal now with uncertainty, fear and anxiety. True independence, agency and resilience—grit—don’t happen overnight. While I can never call it joy, I agree in principle with James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2–4

I come from a long line of strong women—survivors—and those Bible verses they claimed equip me to keep on keeping on now:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b–13

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Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows, published in 2018, describes my journey from grief to joy after my husband died. Others are re-reading it now as they seek joy in these difficult times. Reclaiming Joy is available instantly for Kindle at Amazon.

You might also like to read some of the books I found so helpful after Lev’s death. You can find the list here. If you struggle to cope in tough situations, I recommend Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. And if you think you are too old or set in your ways to change, I challenge you to read Mindset by Carol Dweck. We don’t have to stay stuck. We have a choice.