By Dr. Deborah Rothman
I am a proud New Yorker. I have always thrived on the hustle and bustle, and I love that, overall, New Yorkers seem to get more done in a day than most. The fast-paced environment we created for ourselves always gave me a thrill.
Part of our pre-COVID-19 normal included our daily rush. We rushed to wake up early and start our day, tried to get in some exercise, rushed to work, tried to multitask throughout the day, rushed to take care of our families, rushed to get home, rushed to shop and prepare food, rushed to try and have a bit of downtime before bedtime, etc. Our long and exhausting days were permeated with pressure, whether self-imposed or from outside sources. We were encouraged to produce optimally and with great speed. This has all changed in the blink of an eye. Our false sense of security in having control over our lives and surrounding environment has become apparent. Adapting to those changes so abruptly can be difficult for some and impossible for others.
Way back at the beginning, when we began hearing the numbers coming out of Wuhan, I asked my 20-year-old son to Google the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic. I couldn’t imagine that this would be contained to one area of the world. The way we work today is different than it was ten years ago, five years ago, and even more recently. The world has become a smaller place. Many business travelers travel internationally on a weekly basis. Families fly with greater frequency to visit their relatives overseas. The concept that we would be able to contain such a virulent virus with the way the world travels didn’t seem a possibility to me even back then. When containment is key to pausing or stopping a virus, it is nearly impossible to successfully accomplish that today in a modern society where we are all connected. Additionally, within our local community, we thrive on our socialization. In New York, the greatest number of cases began to peak almost immediately after of Purim. Purim is a time of great joy, when families and friends all come together to celebrate in large groups. Unbeknownst to us at that time was just how virulent COVID-19 was.
As the self-quarantine began, which led to our state, country, and the world being locked down, everything we were used to and our daily norms and routines simply evaporated before our eyes. No longer did we have a routine, a schedule that we could rely upon. Not knowing where we are expected to be and at what time is something that can truly be devastating to one’s motivation. Different personalities as well as family set-ups really play a role in the completely varying experiences people are going through during these days. Some people moved to the computer for Zoom education, meetings, etc., and tried to remain as productive as possible from their homes. Others stagnated and stayed in pajamas throughout the day, and were satisfied if they got out of bed and managed to take a walk (social distancing, of course) on the days when the weather permitted.
My hats off to the parents with young children at home who are so dedicated. They don’t have a minute to think of themselves, as they have their hands full trying to keep their young ones happy, busy with projects, and with the Zoom classes that are difficult in our new realm of education.
Individuals and the elderly who live alone are experiencing loneliness like no other. The lack of communication with others and socialization can be very depressing. Many have taken it upon themselves to repeatedly check in on those individuals, and this can make all the difference.
Financial strain when people have become unemployed or lost a substantial part of their income is scary. Not knowing how and when it will change keeps us continuously over-thinking and worrying, which puts a big medical strain on the body. The mind–body connection is real and has been hit hard during this challenging time.
The heart-wrenching death and loss all around us is devastating. The heavy burden of those who have been ill and are still recovering or those who remain in the hospital is vast and troubling. We consider those who were able to stay at home while sick as the lucky ones. The inconceivable notion that people died alone in a scary hospital setting, unable to be visited by their family, pains us all. Even if you don’t know someone personally, it still has an effect on you. It is impossible not to be scared just picturing it.
Many no longer trust the news or social media as being truth reporters. Additionally, many realize that even top doctors simply don’t know the ramifications of this mageifah, or plague, and are trying to learn as they go along. With the original symptoms changing and the varying strains presenting, it is a challenge to get this under control medically. The unknown is difficult and impossible. It devalues everything we previously thought of as a constant and reassuring truth. We don’t know what to believe and what to focus on for the future. We don’t even know when things will go back to normal, or what our new normal will be. This doubt and constant worrying affects our underlying stress, insomnia, and overall level of peace and serenity which is so vital to our well-being.
In recent days, we have seen slight improvement in the numbers. We have seen a decline in the amount of new infections, as well as in the overwhelming death rate. Some countries, including Israel, have begun to cautiously reopen. We are clinging to this hopefulness desperately. We all need to see and feel optimism as things begin to take a turn for the better. We need hope to cling to.
We reopened the AcuZen Wellness Center just last week with a modified schedule. Masks are required, appointments are being spread out, use of rooms is staggered, and sanitizing is constantly in progress. All measures are being taken to ensure a safe and healthy environment. Personally, I take great pleasure in being able to return to helping people. I’m not sure if my patients missed me most, or I missed them more. During the time we were closed I tried to stay in touch as much as possible. It is truly wonderful and I feel abundantly blessed to have personally recovered from the virus and to be able to return to doing what I love best. I don’t want to ever take for granted again how fortunate it is to be able to help someone heal. During these trying times we are all feeling overwhelmed by enormous stress and fear of the unknown. It wreaks havoc on our emotional well-being. It affects our stress level and can cause insomnia, pain, etc. Now more than ever, I know that natural healing is essential and I am grateful to be able to help.
In Chinese medicine, spring is considered rebirth. This past Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day. My husband and I chose to go visit a nursery with our masks on and observing social distancing rules. We spent a few hours planting flowers. It felt good to get our hands into the soil. It felt good to plant beautiful flowers that we will water and see grow over the coming days, weeks, and months.
We must look forward to the rebirth of our new normal. We must look forward to what our future brings. We have an opportunity to define our new normal. As a community and a nation, we have really come together during these challenging days. However, on a smaller scale, what will we personally do to make sure our new normal is helping us keep our optimal wellness? It is up to each of us individually. Will we slow down? Will we take the time to smell the flowers along the way? Will we celebrate the opportunity at some point to be able to once again hug our loved ones, our elderly, without pause? We must take the time to take care of ourselves and nurture ourselves with preemptive medicine. This is the same as how we nurture the soil so the flowers can grow more vibrantly. This is our time for rebirth. Grasp it in your hands, savor it, and spread it to those around you as we all heal and grow together.
Dr. Deborah Rothman is a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, as well as a diplomate of acupuncture. She is in private practice and runs a wellness center in Lawrence, offering a complete solution for all your health and wellness needs. She can be reached at 516-203-4500 or Deborah@AcuZen.com. Please visit AcuZen.com and follow AcuZen Wellness Center on Facebook and Instagram.