This COVID-19 pandemic has taken so much from the average person – no matter where in the world they live. Here in the U.S. we’re trapped in a nightmarish scenario with a disoriented leader heralding recent gains in the stock market, while millions remain unemployed. I’m sure those struggling to pay utilities are thrilled to know Fortune 1000 companies are enjoying record stock prices.
One of the most severe – and underrated – effects is the impact the scourge has had on people’s psyches. Emotional, mental and physical health always become subconscious victims of any national crisis. People are just trying to survive.
Personally, I’m in a vortex of angst and frustration. My freelance writing enterprise – as meager as it was – has pretty much collapsed. I’m fortunate I have some money saved from previous work, but I know that won’t last forever. Or even much longer. After my mother’s death this past June, though, I began to feel sick. Friends and relatives thought I was in a state of grief, which I was for the most part. But I thought I’d contracted that dreaded novel coronavirus. I had many of the symptoms. I had hoped my seasonal allergies had started to hit me early. Then again, perhaps it was the stress of dealing with my mother’s health. One friend suggested I was suffering from a lack of iron and Vitamin D. Still, I finally reconciled, it may be all of the above. Fighting so many battles at once takes a toll on the body. And mind.
Because of the pandemic, health clubs were among those businesses shuttered across the nation in an effort to contain the spread. I last visited my gym in mid-May; shortly before the rehabilitation center where my mother had been staying shoved her out because her Medicare benefits had been exhausted. (That’s another story!)
But even after my gym reopened in June, I still haven’t visited. Again it was that awful sickness. I didn’t know what was wrong. I’ve taken to doing basic calisthenics and walking along an exercise trail behind my home in recent weeks in the middle of the day. I used to go running, but I don’t have the strength right now. Key words: right now. Once you take off a long time without doing any kind of exercise besides laundry and loading and unloading the dishwasher, it’s a tad bit difficult to get back to normal. But even that little bit still makes me feel good.
Seven years ago I wrote about my tendency to visit my local gym on Saturday nights, when hardly anyone was present. I commented that only lonely fools like me did such a thing. At the turn of the century, working out on a Saturday night was unmanageable. But the gym I had at the time was open 24 hours. It was a perfect time to jog on a treadmill and lift weights, I realized, with such a sparse crowd. No one was there to be “seen”. That quiet time – with various types of music blaring from the myriad speakers lingering overhead – allowed me to think of every aspect of my life.
I left that gym in 2017 to join another local gym that closed unexpectedly a year later. After a lengthy hiatus, I joined my current gym last year. This is an old-school gym with no fancy juice bars or chic workout gear. Loud rock and rap music bounces around the concrete walls. It boasts an outside area with non-traditional workout gear, like tractor tires and tree stumps. Men can go shirtless. People there sweat – they don’t perspire! It’s not for suburban soccer moms or GQ cover models. (No offense to soccer moms!) I feel more than comfortable in such an environment.
I know it’s tough to take one’s mental and physical health into consideration if you’re unemployed or underemployed. But I also know you don’t have to belong to any kind of health club to care for your own health. Mental health experts are concerned about the severity this pandemic is having on people’s well-being. Quarantines are literally driving people crazy. And to drink too much alcohol and/or consume illegal drugs. Or contemplate hurting themselves. A bad economy helps none of that. I can identify with all of that. I really do feel that kind of pain.
Just walking the other day, carrying a water bottle and letting the sun emblazon my bare torso, helped me mentally. It didn’t make everything magically disappear once I returned home. I knew it wouldn’t. But maintaining one’s health – as best as possible, even in the worst of times – is vital. It can’t be overemphasized.