WAVELENGTHS

A coping plan for COVID and its aftermath

BY RABBI LAWRENCE S. ZIERLER
Posted 6/23/21

Much ink has been spilled on efforts to address the emotional and functional challenges of living through COVID and its now perceived aftermath.

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WAVELENGTHS

A coping plan for COVID and its aftermath

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Many, if not most people have struggled with depression in the face of the threat of illness and its adversity, and its unpredictable path, with loneliness and lockdowns. 
 
Untold people have written about motivational issues; the problems of self-starting and initiative. The amorphous nature of the days ahead and not knowing which shoe will drop next has made it difficult to use seemingly endless time purposely and effectively.
 
So in desperation, I devised a personal plan that is portable and may be used in a number of situations.
 
Each day, I would and still work from a 10-point plan. I award myself a point for my ability to move forward with each of my ADL's - Activities of Daily Living. This serves as a launching pad for the rest of my day and the tasks looming larger in front of me.
 
Such activities as showering, taking my daily mix of medicines, making the bed, saying my three daily prayers at their appointed times, paying the bills, returning phone calls; going to the post office and even eating meals at their proper times each earns a point. All of these "organizing" activities, which we plow through under normal circumstances, help to shape the day and give one much-needed credit and encouragement for getting started with one's day.
 
In essence, it is through these ordinary and mundane activities that one can ultimately work through the dark and confusing fog of the pandemic with its larger challenges and ever-changing circumstances.
 
Jewish law and lore celebrate the power of the ordinary. What is referred to in Hebrew as one's "shigrah" - "regimen" and also the concept of "hergel" - "routine" is not just a reality but a  functional value.  Using these simple tools to orient one's day, simple as they seem, can pull one out of the doldrums.
 
It is useful and appropriate to celebrate these ostensibly simple tasks for they are discrete actions that are doable, and that in the aggregate represent movement forward.
 
There is an interesting Talmudic debate in which the Rabbis debate which is the most important verse or statement in the Torah - Pentateuch. In this discussion, it is determined that the verse of a basic Jewish creed, the Shema prayer, "Hear O Israel the Lord Our God the Lord is One," however important, is not the statement for this situation. Neither is the great lesson and challenge "to love one's neighbor/fellow as one's self," however laudable and necessary. Rather it is the statement from the Book of Numbers that describes the two daily continual offerings, one brought in the morning and the other toward eventide. The compelling point and lesson here is the notion of constancy. Occasional recourse to less than familiar resources does not guarantee uplift. But one's commitment and access to the "recurring and reliable" can provide that much sought-after stability and needed guideposts.
 
It has worked for me. You don't need to make a full 10. But I can tell you that it is a great tool, that involves "small waves" of achievement and originates from a sensible starting point in self-care. 

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