Take it easy on yourself

"Toughing out" the stress of socially isolating is tougher than our editor expected

Stressed out woman
For even the most resolute out there, the stress of COVID-19 sneaks up when you least expect it. | Image: Engin Akyurt

The emotional toll from a pandemic on a local level is something that we’ve written about and I have read ad nauseam since the stay-at-home order began. 

On a personal level, I related to all of it through very much of a fishbowl approach, feeling fortunate that I wasn’t one of the millions chasing unemployment checks or dealing with a loved one who contracted COVID-19. I’ve been able to feed my family, keep the lights on and keep my two young children safe at home. 

Selfishly, I’ve looked at what people view as stress, as being just fine, something we all should just “suck it up and deal with.” I’ve had a very obtuse look at all the other psychological effects of remaining isolated – and I think this week, it finally caught my attention. 

Let me start by saying that to all the parents out there fortunate enough to still have a career you’re managing with children in the house all day, major props. I give special props to the caregivers out there, looking in or living with someone with a predisposition that could make contracting this virus a real possibility. Having to be cognizant of what you touch, where you go, how close you are to another stranger so that you don’t risk bringing this deadly virus home is a type of stress I thought I couldn’t even imagine. 

“[So] 2020 has pretty much sucked from the start. But if you’re alive and healthy, this stress we’re all feeling is temporary. Know that it doesn’t define any of us and while it’s debilitating, it’s not our end result.”

Except I can. Earlier this week, I found out that someone in my extended family contracted COVID-19. I’m not close with them beyond checking in during holidays where we regale about times from my past as a child I vaguely remember, yet still, this person is someone that’s a part of my circle I now have to be concerned about as they head to a hospital hoping for the best but not knowing which way the pendulum will swing on their fate. 

The odds aren’t in her favor, either. She’s over 60, has asthma and is overweight. However, she’s a fighter and is confident that she’ll beat this – even so, there’s no telling what the after-effects will be on vital organs which reports claim are ravaged in severe cases of this disease. 

I’m no longer in the fishbowl. I’m swimming in the waters of anxiety and worry, in addition to dealing with everything else that comes with needing to perform at a high level, for my family, for my career and for you, our readers who we produce this for each week. While I’m fortunate enough to be riding this out with a family unit, there’s also this social isolation slowly starting to peek through the cracks, that I can see why reports say that the toll having to isolate takes on the brain is immeasurable. 

Honestly, oddly enough what’s bringing me hope is a press conference I watched earlier this week where New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo squared off with a reporter who questioned his methods on keeping New York shut down around all the other states slowly beginning to reopen life. She argued the stress from lost jobs, lost wages and a crippling economy as a result. Cuomo looked at her asked simply, 

“It doesn’t equal death. Economic hardship, yes, very bad, [but it’s] not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house, very bad. Not death. Domestic violence on the increase, very bad. Not death. And not [the] death of someone else.”

And so I think about that, coupled with the firsthand look I now have from afar and it certainly lends perspective. It’s been a rough two months, hell, 2020 has pretty much sucked from the start. But if you’re alive and healthy, this stress we’re all feeling is temporary. Know that it doesn’t define any of us and while it’s debilitating, it’s not our end result.

Stay safe and stay strong, Philadelphia. 

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. Journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.