Written by Marta Orellana; copy edited by Meagan Kus
Editors find comfort in the stable predictability of grammatical rules, of univocal styles and definitions—with some exceptions to keep us on our toes. We turn to these to balance the everyday chaos in the world beyond the word. But what happens when the thread in the fabric of our daily lives is so forcefully yanked that our safety blankets are completely torn at their seams? Is our respite in linguistic structures enough to offset the surrealness of a world dizzied by a viral outbreak?
The past few months have been, and continue to be, an emotional rollercoaster for all of us. The nausea has been global. After the initial shock and panic subsided, there has been a collective attempt to navigate a new and uncertain normal. We have tried to find balance in maintaining some of our old responsibilities and managing new ones, all while trying not to focus on the immensity of the situation unfolding in the world. And finally, phase by phase, there is the eventual re-emergence beyond the bubbles of our households—provoking feelings of both anxiety and hope.
Advice for navigating our emotions is being offered everywhere, a smorgasbord of “take what you need.” Mental health has been at the forefront of many conversations as we wonder about the repercussions of collective physical distancing on our social and emotional well-being.
When everyone is paddling through the same storm, where can we turn for support? We trust our health experts for devising guidelines and restrictions related to the outbreak itself, but simple words of advice don’t need to come from an academic source. They can come from those around you and those who know you the best. They can come out of moments of quiet reflection. They can come from the lived experiences and perspectives of people who see the world from a different angle than you do.
I turned to a few people in my life—those whom I trust the most and who play an active role in keeping me sane—for their thoughts on how to maintain some inner peace during a pandemic. Their suggestions have helped me to remember what is important, and I’d like to share them with you as reminders for mindfulness and self-care, as well as to show that you don’t always need to look very far to find good advice. There are people who care, and they are everywhere.
Be kind to yourself
Treating bodies and minds at her Aspire Naturopathic Health Centre, Dr. Emily Habert offers honest conversations, education, and advice as part of her practice. She has taught me that how I treat myself is important. I’ve learned that self-care is a commitment and a promise to yourself, and that understanding yourself on the inside provides you with the insight and armour to deal with any external factors affecting you. “Be gentler with yourself,” is her message. Learning to be kind and compassionate with ourselves, she says, will teach us to be this way with those around us as well.
Notice and enjoy the space
Maria Woy, my aunt, babysitter, and above all, trusted friend, has recently retired from nursing in post-cardiac care, where she witnessed how mental health affected her patients’ treatment and healing. She also knows how the simple act of commuting to and from work in a city like Vancouver can have a negative effect on your mental health and test your nerves like nothing else. Recent structural changes within our society and calls for maintaining space between us inevitably mean that the once-crowded places in our city can now provide some room to breathe—whether it means allowing us the time and space to enjoy the beautiful views on our drive home or to do the things we may not have had the time to do before.
Limit pandemic news
Relentlessly occupied, Dr. Holuszko is a professor, a researcher, and a professional engineer, on top of being my rock—my mother. Time is not always on her side as she chases industrial and academic deadlines that still need to be met throughout the crisis. Staying informed on current events is paramount to her as she readjusts her work and her methods of instruction to stay within the changing rules and restrictions.
This, however, requires an active approach to make sure that you’re sifting through the right information, so she suggests to “narrow down your most trusted sources, be critical of headlines, and watch the news no more than once a day.” When asked where she turns for information, she shares her preference for “fact-based sources that do not leave room for ambiguity,” including Johns Hopkins University, the New York Times, and the BBC. Facts, even though they may seem daunting, are far easier to digest than articles that tend to offer sensationalized headlines and fragmented personal opinions.
Get up, get dressed, and get going
While much of the world shut down, there were many who continued to physically show up to work, day after day, quietly commuting to and from. One of these people is my husband, an electrician. Work still needs to be done; homes, cars, and roads need to be fixed. So how do these people who keep the wheels of society oiled and running—tradespeople, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers—keep going while the world seems to crumble around them? “You just have to keep going,” says my husband, reminding me how important it is to slow down and to focus on what is right in front of you, “because what is the point of worrying about things that are beyond your control?” And so, by getting up, getting ready for the day, and getting something done, you can feel in control and productive.
Think happy thoughts
Perhaps some of the most honest and candid advice I ever get comes from my wise-beyond-his-years, five-year-old son. When I first held this little human in my arms, I started to understand how delicate and how beautiful this world can be. My child’s honest, effervescent, and unguarded approach to life constantly reminds me of the power of the present and the importance of noticing the little things that bring joy into the simplest tasks. When I asked him what we could do if we find ourselves worrying too much about what is going on in the world, my son offers wise words: “Just wash your hands really well and try not to think about it. Think about something that makes you happy instead—like a hug.” He inspires me to pay attention to and emphasize all the goodness around us and to remember what and whom you love.
Take care of yourself. Know that you are not alone. And, wash your hands..
Marta Orellana lives in North Vancouver, BC. She has been a copy editor and proofreader for five years, specializing primarily in academic and technical writing. Marta is also a French Immersion teacher and a polyglot, whose love of language is what has driven her appreciation for the written word.
Meagan Kus is a freelance copy editor and proofreader with a 20-year background in arts administration.
Image by Unsplash