Today, I was thinking about where I would have been this weekend had our world not been turned upside-down by the invisible enemy we’ve named COVID 19. I don’t spend much time thinking about this virus. It really does me no good to do so – physically, mentally, spiritually.  That’s not to say, as a physician, that I haven’t studied every article that comes to my ‘in box’ that informs me about the characteristics of said virus. Learning about the ‘details’ of it, helps give me – all of us – a better sense of ‘control’ over this situation. How else do we gain control over an ‘invisible’ controller, then to learn as much as we can about it. But I don’t “think” about it. It’s more like studying a car…Where are the doors? How many? How do they open? Close? Lock? Unlock? How does it function.

 

It’s a functional, practical thing. Studying a virus, or any other pathogen that causes disease should be just that: a practical thing. I wouldn’t even bother studying the virus – except that practically, our goal is to decrease its control over ‘us’. Loss of a sense of ‘control’ is often the underlying ‘stressor’ that we can’t always identify when we feel stressed. Fortunately, through this type of ‘studying’ of COVID 19, researchers have identified things that we can do to take control over our risks…AND, fortunately, in pretty much every way, they are the same things we should be doing every ‘flu’ season anyway. Good hand hygiene, staying home when sick, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze…really, the basics. It’s actually a relief to me – in so many ways – that there really is nothing different or magical that we should be doing to decrease our current risks for this one. It is what we should always be doing.  Now, that’s where my ‘thinking’ about this virus ends. I don’t spend time listening to the 24/7 news cycles. I limit my time on social media now, as the main topics of discussion seem to be COVID 19 or politics!

 

The reality is the media today uses every tactic in the book to keep our attention: from colors, to sounds, to movement, to stories. Everything is designed to draw you in emotionally. That is what sells, after all. In the effort to ‘be the first’ to get out information, the networks compete with each other for our attention using all of these techniques and more. The more we watch, the more they are willing to show us – in increasingly sensationalizing ways. In many ways, the networks use techniques taken out of a potential handbook on creating addiction. It simply isn’t good for me – or anyone else, for that matter. The stories and numbers presented in the most dramatic ways do not add anything beneficial to my health or life…they are not giving me information that will help me defend myself against the invisible invader. What they ARE doing is invoking fear, dread and a sense of helplessness.  And how is that helping? It is far better to read the information needed – and check in regularly to sources such as the CDC to learn if they have identified new information that with practically help us take control over our own risk.

 

So, instead, I’m thinking about where I would have been this weekend and what I would have been doing. And, honestly, I’m actually good with that. Just thinking. About places, things, activities. It’s a good thing. I’m not angry or upset – I’m not even feeling resentful that an invisible ‘enemy’ is around.  I’m thinking about the snow in Colorado, and how excited I’ll be when I get there again. I’m thinking about the future – and I’m thinking about the now. It’s cold outside still – no snow – but we’ve had some sunshine. I’ve got some yard work to do – raking, moving wood piles, cleaning out gutters. I’ve had a chance to go through cabinets and closets in my house and find things I had forgotten were even put in there years ago. I’ve got a pile of books I haven’t had time to look at yet, and it’s time that I do.  When I really sit down and think about it, I’m grateful for a bit of a pause in my hectic life. One of the best ways to decrease stress is to complete projects that have sat uncompleted for so long. Now is the perfect time to de-stress, live in the current moment. Watch and study the bubbles as you do the dishes.  Listen to the birds chirping away as they build their nests. Go for that long walk – because you don’t have a specific time that you absolutely need to be back at the house. Just Be. Practice this choice of thinking with me…it’s a good step in practicing simple daily ‘meditation’ or ‘mindfulness’. Your health will thank you for the pause.

Here’s to a HAPPY and Healthy YOU,

Dr. Stiller, Stacy, Nicole and Chris
Don’t forget you can always reach us at (440) 710-1140 or just by replying to this email.