How to Surf the Second Wave

Adults |

Whether you’ve been following COVID-19 modelling projections closely and saw this second wave coming from months away, or you had high hopes that the end of the pandemic was in sight, you might be feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of another lockdown. As public parks, outdoor patios, and other attractions began to open up just a few short months ago, many of us got a much-needed taste of some of the things we took for granted in a pre-COVID world. Adjusting to the “new normal”  has been difficult for nearly all of us, and the idea of losing some of these luxuries once again – during the darker, colder seasons at that – is daunting to say the least. However, it’s important to keep in mind how much we have learned since COVID first reached North America, and how this can better inform how to prepare – both physically and mentally – for this second wave.

Remember March?

It’s hard to believe that it has already been nearly seven whole months since things shut down. Back then, the idea of all of this lasting for even just the summer seemed impossible to digest, and those first couple months seemed to last a lifetime. But, as we’ve become increasingly accustomed to things like keeping our social bubbles tight and swapping fancy dine-in date nights for Netflix and takeout, it’s hard to believe we’re already entering our third season in this pandemic.  While it certainly hasn’t been easy, don’t forget how we have gotten through this before and learned a lot about staying safe and healthy along the way.

Focus on what you can control and plan ahead (within reason)

It’s true that we know a lot more about the virus than we did seven months ago – for instance, now we know that the risk for transmission from surfaces and objects is low, paying with cash is okay, and disinfecting every item from your grocery haul before putting it away is probably not necessary. That being said, a lot of uncertainty about the situation remains, which is bound to provoke feelings of stress and overwhelm. In times like these, it’s important that we focus on what we do know and what we can control – continue practicing social distancing, avoiding or limiting trips to high traffic areas, wearing masks, and keeping up good hand hygiene. Planning ahead, within reason, can help alleviate some feelings of anxiety – what we’ve learned about supply-chains has taught us that panic-buying and hoarding toilet paper is not needed and only causes more harm than good, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still steps you can take to help you feel more prepared. Get into the habit of taking inventory of your pantry before grocery shopping to avoid having to make additional trips to the store. If you celebrate gift-giving holidays, start shopping now to avoid crowded malls and even-longer-than-usual shipping waits. And if buying a couple of extra bottles of hand sanitizer or boxes of dried pasta helps you feel a little more at ease, do what you have to do, just don’t forget to keep the rest of your community in mind. 

Combat caution fatigue

After a prolonged period of stress and hypervigilance, it’s completely normal to be tempted to let your guard down. It might start small – maybe you stop following the directional arrows in stores or forgetting to bring your mask every once in a while: this is what many folks have been calling “caution fatigue.” Of course, letting small things slip from time to time is human, and nobody can be perfect, we have to be wary of how slippery this slope can be – if you are one of the fortunate folks who have made it this far without contracting the virus, it can start to feel like the worst is over and, as a result, you might slowly start to let up on the safety precautions you’ve worked so hard to create habits of. The reality is that even if the number of active cases in your area is low, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is never zero, and many of us who have managed to stay healthy have done so not through a stroke of luck, but because of things like mask-wearing and social distancing. This reaction may be normal, but it’s also dangerous – here are a few things we can do to combat it:

  1. When you’re feeling unmotivated to follow safety precautions, remember that we aren’t just doing all of this to keep ourselves safe, but also to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. If you can’t feel motivated enough to do it for yourself, do it for the greater good. 
  2. Even though caution fatigue in action looks like relaxing, it really is a stress response – continue practicing self-care to recharge your batteries and combat stress. As an added bonus, looking after your mental health, eating and sleeping well, and engaging in exercise you enjoy can all boost your immune system, making you more able to fight off viruses like COVID-19.
  3. Practice gratitude – at times like these, it can be difficult to find silver linings, or feel futile to even look for them. It’s okay to mourn the things you miss about the before-times and feel sadness about the state of the world, but it’s also important to take time each day to think of a handful of things you are grateful for. Doing so helps us see things from a more productive point of view and remind us of the value in following safety protocols. 

We may not come out unscathed: we will slip up and step backwards and sometimes maybe even fall flat on our masked-faces, but, as cheesy as it sounds, one cliche still rings true – this too shall pass.