A sobering fact: Over 250,000 people are no longer living and breathing in this country due to COVID-19 and the devastating deaths it causes. If you placed that many caskets end-to-end and started in Bellingham, headed down I-5 to Highway 2, continued over Stevens Pass on through Leavenworth, Waterville, Wilbur and Davenport, you would arrive in Spokane and the row of caskets would finally end — for now. The number of family members — fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and more — standing behind the grim display would soar into millions. Exhausted health care workers who tended to these people, holding their hand as their fight neared its end, shedding tears for each one who died alone, would amount to millions more. This reality cannot be whitewashed, denied or minimized.
Many who have not suffered from the illness itself are struggling with anxiety and depression associated with isolation, economic difficulties, job uncertainties and many other peripheral stressors. More than ever, it’s imperative to go back to basics about maintaining well-balanced health: nutritious diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise. Mindfulness, the state of being aware and accepting of the present state, and social wellness are just as important for mental health.
A friend told me that she read regarding the pandemic: “Introverts, get your head out of your books and call your extrovert friends. They are not doing okay!” Suffice it to say that no one is reveling in this vacuum of social distancing. We can all do well to reach out to friends and family for a well person check. It most likely will make that person’s day!
Another mood-boosting deficit we especially feel in Mazama is the lack of sunshine through the dark days of winter. Some places in the corridor that are backed by buttes and bluffs only see sunshine for a meager two or three hours during midday. Across the valley, the sun is shining on the west-facing slopes long after it has disappeared for most of us. Sunlight exposure triggers the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin. A trip down-valley is worth the effort to catch some lingering rays as we wait for the days to make the turn of adding back daylight minutes after the winter solstice.
The early heavy snow (2 feet plus here at the base of the North Cascades) certainly provided the opportunity to get outside whether to shovel or snow blow incessantly or strap on snowshoes for a walk in the veritable snow globe. Skiers are chomping at the bit to hit the trails and — to their delight — Methow Trails are open! All that exercise will boost the endorphins, another hormone that elicits a feeling of well being.
Better and brighter days will come. In the interim: Reach out to a human being outside your home. Listen to a Schubert piano sonata. Follow the sun. Eat an apple a day. Do one thing to get your heart rate up. Sleep long and hard; consider this winter a mini-hibernation. Get in at least one good laugh. Most importantly, protect yourself and others — wear a mask.