Coping in the era of COVID-19

How are you doing?

This is the most serious pandemic since the Spanish influenza and information, we know, is critical in keeping anxiety down. People, in general, feel anxious in the unknown.

I thought a post that pulled together the various ways people are coping would be helpful.  Please feel free to add your own in the Comments section below.

I’ve found four areas that have helped me: humor, exercise (easier in a rural area than urban, granted), music, and trust in your information sources. The exercise section is somewhat hidden, I will admit.

At the heart of each of these, though, is connection.  We are social animals, after all, and it can be painful to be, to feel, isolated.  I’ve found as I looked at each of my coping mechanisms (to reiterate: humor, exercise, music, and trust in our sources of information) that each one, in its own way, helps me stay connected to others.


Erma Bombeck once said, “When humor goes, there goes civilization.” And it must be true, for Google had an image for it.



Stephen Colbert summed up this crisis and got a laugh at the end as well (from me):
“This coronavirus … it’s making people nervous,” he said last Wednesday. “It’s making people anxious. But I think at a time like this we all need to laugh, to be together,” and then backing away, “from a distance of about 20 feet.”

In the early weeks of this pandemic, I was confused about what to believe.

You heard all the advice:

Be sure to wear a mask.  Don’t bother; masks keep germs in, not out.

Stay six feet away.  Stay home.

Sing Happy Birthday for 20 seconds. No; sing it for 40 seconds. That last was advice for washing your hands.

The wide-ranging advice was flying fast and furious even a week ago. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion, presented as fact.

Granted, I began this post sitting in Vermont, not Seattle or Tehran or Wuhan. Still, not knowing what to believe was causing me more concern than the virus itself. I found that jokes, humor, anchored me. There is no ambiguity for me in what I find funny; it either is or it isn’t (to me).

Here’s the first Coronavirus related image that made me chuckle. It showed up in my Facebook feed one morning last week, unexpectedly:

Thanks to Helen Moffett for the photo.

Turns out, Helen was just wandering past this ill-timed display and snapped her photo.  It wasn’t planned, and it was that absurdity that made it amusing (to me).

The toilet paper hoarding got lots of air time.

“Coronavirus Jokes are spreading (almost) as fast as the actual COVID-19,” read the March 10 headline from the The Gazette, and with it came this image of someone hiding in a bunker built of rolls of toilet paper in the middle of their living room:



Humor is universal.  And the use of humor universally is a good reminder that not only is this a true pandemic (affecting people around the world), the use of humor as an antidote is something we human beings share, around the world.  I like that reminder. It feels like one more way we connect.


Music is another way we connect.  Who hasn’t been moved by the many images of quarantined Italians singing out their balconies?  The link is via Laurie Buchanan’s FB page on March 12, 2020 (thanks, Laurie).


The LA Times reports that in the hardest hit country outside of China,

Iranians cope with coronavirus with dancing doctors and humor.

I love the fourth video,  the one of the two doctors dancing, finding joy even while masked from head to toe. But the others are also of interest. I hope you’ll check it out.

Music comes in many forms, thankfully.

On March 12th, the Berlin Philharmonic gave their scheduled concert, in a vacant hall, streaming the event over the Internet at no charge.  And for the next month they are offering free access to their entire archive of concerts and films.


You’re welcome. Thanks goes to the director of the hospice choir we sing in, Suzanne Rhodes, who found it and passed it along to all of us, digitally of course.  Now, I pass it along to you.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I think about how tedious it has become to sing Happy Birthday as timekeeper for hand washing (remember, it’s the friction that’s important; use that nail brush). Here is my ever-growing list in no particular order of other choices you have.

Jolene, Dolly Pardon
Staying Alive,  BeeGees
Livin’ On a Prayer, Bon Jovi
Cecelia, Simon & Garfunkel
What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland
Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper

But the best news of all is this new website called Wash Your Lyrics. Open it, enter the song you want to sing while washing your hands and it’ll …. oh bother.  Just go take a look. It’s really fun.  Here’s what I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor looks like via Wash Your Lyrics.

With grateful thanks to for the program that helped generate this image.


How are WE coping on our 30 isolated acres? Exercise

My 90-year-old mother lives nearby, alone, and eager to stack our wood again this spring. She hates that this virus has kept her from her volunteer work at the local hospital, the community dinners she enjoys so much, her new job with the US Census, and the Democratic Party she’s been treasurer of since moving up here 12 years ago.  She and I get out for a brief walk up our hill a few times a week.

Woody, 81, has been teaching online the past seven or eight years, so, that won’t change. He’s in the early draft of a new book and is in the PT phase of his recent rotator cuff surgery, so his activities keep him at home anyway, especially now that our hospice chorus is on hiatus; that had been the only outing he’d had since his shoulder surgery in January. He’s content to continue his life pretty much as it’s been. But he also occasionally drops noises that sound much like, “I’m in the severely impacted demographic.” Or, “When I catch this…”   I just let him be.  And try to get him out to hike up our hill once a day.

As for me, 71, I’m mystified by some of my actions. On one of my earlier food shopping treks, with future corona-induced quarantines in mind, I thought only of having enough — ready for this?  — dishwasher detergent! I kept thinking,  if we get sick the LAST thing I want to be doing is washing dishes by hand. As of this writing, I can do 38 loads of dishes before we run out.  But I will run out of the walnuts we use each morning in about two weeks.  I’ll also run out of hair goop, but who cares! (though maybe I will once I run out).

I’m not worried about this virus, though I wonder sometimes if I should be. Worry for me has always been a waste of energy, engaged in by those who don’t know what else to do.

I do fear its power to overwhelm our health care system, though, maybe “respect its power to overwhelm” would be more accurate.  In either event, I keep in mind the most important lesson I learned from the many holocaust memoirs I’ve read over the years: we are able to survive so much more than we ever would have believed.


I sure wish I’d kept track of where I found this one.


If you’d like to read what the experts are saying on social distancing, here’s a primer from the folks at SAMHSA

What to believe, to whom to listen

Finally, I trust my news sources to give me the facts I need when I need them. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to read them. Vermont Digger, for example, my local newspaper, brings me local and state-wide news each morning, including updates on what’s happening COVID related here in my own backyard.

Checking just now, I learned that we’ve gone from 6 cases yesterday, the 15th, to 12 cases today. Doubled in 24 hours.That helps me feel even better about staying at home. Not everyone can do that. But I can, and I’m willing to because I know, I believe, it will make a difference.

There’s this article from the American Psychological Association on what to pay attention to while keep social distance. It was written in 2014, back when we were first getting warned about this very possibility. (Now there’s a digression I’m eager to pursue).

I believe I have a part to play in helping to contain the spread — flatten that curve, as they call it. And, as much as I’m able, I will do that.

I don’t need to go to the post office everyday. I won’t need to go food shopping for three weeks, maybe more. (though I will run out of walnuts before then!) I don’t need to see my clients face to face necessarily; most will just postpone; one I will see via Zoom. And we’ve blocked our AirBnB listing through April. This is all doable.

We won’t eat out, not even take-out. I will, however, buy gift certificates via phone to support the restaurants I want to keep alive. Hopefully, those restaurants will still be around to take them from me, slowly, once life gets back to normal.

To me, this is like recycling. I’d not make much of a difference doing this by myself, alone. But when I’m one of many, together we make a huge difference.  Together, we may make all the difference, and that feels quite social, in its own way.

How about you? How are you coping during this strange, new chapter of our lives?  

[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is now available in digital and paperback format.

I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all.  The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.


38 Responses

  1. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    The graphic of the CATtening of this epidemic is epic. Absolutely perfect.

    I’m doing well so far, thanks for asking. Our situation is that my husband is still working downtown in a tower office building, meaning each day he may come in contact with the virus, possibly bringing it home. Nothing to be done about that other than both of us being vigilant about cleanliness.

    Staying at home is good by me, walking is good by me, and connecting with other people via social media is good by me. We will survive, but talk about your interesting times. 😳
    Ally Bean recently posted…More Than Ever, Cleanliness & Curiosity Are The Keys To Healthy LivingMy Profile

  2. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    Things are not good here in Spain but we are managing. We can only walk our dog in our neighbourhood and go to the grocery store and pharmacy. Music, reading and writing are keeping me sane. Take care and be safe and healthy.

  3. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    The comment about not eating out—even take out is right on—I understand restaurants may go bust but people that think take out is safe are deluding themselves—remember—whoever is making that food is also breathing all over it and they are minimum wage workers who can’t afford to stay home Even if they are sick

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Actually, up here in the restaurants we frequent, the owner is also the chef. But I take your point, Susan. Such strange, disorienting times we live in. I’m anchored also by the familiar people I’ve come to know through social media, you certainly among them. Take care down there.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  4. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    What a grand mix of info, testimonials, and humor. I’ve enjoyed some of your cartoons posted earlier on Facebook and showed them to Cliff.

    Libraries are closed and are the fitnesses classes at the gym. Although I can walk in the preserve to my heart’s delight, I will miss my friends at Pilates. There are lots of books on my Kindle, so I have NO excuse not to tackle them now though I prefer print books.

    Cliff gets coffee at a coffee shop every day, but instead of sitting in the dining room with his computer, he’ll have to go through the drive-through.

    You know, these are First World (not Third World) problems. We will get through this. As to hand-washing: When my little 2-year-olds wash their hands after going potty, sometimes we sing the Birthday song, about 20 seconds long, long enough to kill those dang germs!!

    By the way, I’ll tweet this.
    Stay well!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Do You Have 2020 Vision?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Well now, you can take their very favorite song and transcribe it onto that poster. I love when I discover a jewel like that Wash Your Lyrics website.

      In an earlier draft of this post, I wrote about your and Joan’s, and Kathy’s memoirs and how this could be the time I finally get to them and those reviews. So very backlogged in my reading, but I’ll get there. Eager to, Marian.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

      • Marian Beaman
        | Reply

        This came up on my feed again today, a good thing! Wow, lots of comments on this timely post, another good thing . . . .

        A lot has happened (sigh!) since March 18, that’s for sure. Stay well!

  5. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet. I hope you and Woody stay well.
    I already do my test writing from home, and I have more time for other writing now. 🙂
    Doug’s classes are going online, and younger daughter will also somehow be teaching online. My son-in-law is a new nurse, and he just started his first nursing job at a hospital. What a time to begin! Older daughter and her wife work from home. We can’t see my mom at her facility, so that has been troubling.
    But we have food (and wine), books, Internet–and the weather has been nice for walking.
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…SecretsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, we are truly fortunate to have the internet while we cope with this virus. Nice to hear how you are all faring. Thanks for stopping by. I’ve missed you. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  6. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    One of my jobs is at a library. It has been closed, and that’s not the kind of work you can do from home! I did my first day of telework for another job yesterday. I found it difficult to concentrate with everything that’s going on. Today is usually my day “off” that I use for creative writing. I’m hoping to have better luck concentrating on that. This time of self-isolation is a gift for those of us who love to write. May I used the time wisely!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      To look at this self-imposed isolation as a gift is a gift itself. Thank you for that Arlene. For me, it appears that Zoom is fast becoming a permanent part of my life. I’m glad you stopped by.

  7. Nancy McBride
    | Reply

    Holding steady in Paxton, MA. I’m reading, writing a letter a day, doing art as it comes, cooking and. checking in with friends…KEEP CALM and HUNKER DOWN.

  8. Clive
    | Reply

    You’re so right about the benefits of humour and music as ways to take our minds off the horrors of what may be unfolding. I’ve seen a number of versions of the hand washing song – my favourites so far are the rock band Def Leppard and my county cricket team (probably not a sport familiar to you!). Stay safe, Janet 👍🤞
    Clive recently posted…Anyone For Pi?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I know of Cricket from various British films, but that’s as close as I’ve come. I do get the impression it’s a game close to a Brit’s heart. Thanks for joining us, Clive. Keep those songs alive.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  9. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Between myself and various event planners, all of my in-person speaking engagements have been canceled through the end of June. Interestingly, some of those are being converted to online Zoom events. I’m hoping they prove to be successful.

    In the meantime, Len and I are either at home reading or writing, or we’re walking on the Greenbelt along the Boise River. Additionally, I pop into social media periodically throughout the day.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie. Zoom for me has always been with maybe six or so faces. Did one with 42 last week and another coming up at the end of the month with a possible 65! Amazing technology. Aren’t we lucky to have the internet at this time of upheaval and fear. See my reply to Joan, below. Music is so transporting. And they are streaming their archives for free.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  10. Joan Z Rough
    | Reply

    Except for a few bad dreams, we’re doing well. The virus is here in C’ville and we’re taking walks, reading, watching movies, and writing. These times are filled with things to cogitate and write about.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You and Bill would enjoy a few symphony concerts too, I imagine. The Berlin Philharmonic to the rescue:

      I listened to a Yo yo Ma, Itzhak Perelman, David Barenbaum Beethoven piece the other night, from 20 years ago, at least. Transporting.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

      • Joan Z
        | Reply

        Thank you so much, Janet. We love this. Music is a must these days. I also love Yo yo Ma, and all the rest.

  11. Carolyn
    | Reply

    I heard from a friend who is in lockdown Brussels that they can only go to food shops and pharmacies and……. wait for it……. bookshops. Now that I like. People in my neck of the woods in the UK are pretty laid back (che sera sera – oh, another song to wash to). I’m just peeved that I can’t go on my travels till goodness knows when.

    Keep smiling

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for that Carolyn. We’ve got restaurants and food stores here offering curbside pickup (and some deliver). We don’t get mail delivery where I live (too rural) so I’ll be going into town today to get our mail, first time in a week. And will probably pop into the food store and see what’s what. More curious than hungry. We are living through history. Imagine if we could read reports from people living through the bubonic plague. Now that would be memoir!
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  12. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and well-researched post, Janet. I think we are all stumbling around trying to make sense ofour world the changes by the hour. My brother was telling me of two women who were fist-fighting over the last roll of toilet paper. It’s crises like this one that brings out people’s true characters. As for me, I’m already isolated in rehab so I don’t notice the difference so much. But the NO visitor restriction as necessary as it is , makes it more difficult. I do think this is an opportunity to read and write more or pursue other creative opportunity.,And staying connected via social media will make us feel more sane!
    Kathleen Pooler recently posted…When Life Gets in the Way: A Memoir MomentMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Kathy. It must be so hard to be so restricted. My heart goes out to you. Consider yourself hugged. I saw a great meme today: “Our grandparents were called upon to go to war. We’re called upon to sit on our sofas. We can do this.”
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  13. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    I’m listening to books and music and working on several future blog posts.

    I love that site you introduced me to that has the different song lyrics to wash my hands by. My problem is trying to stand on one leg (the one that’s not broken) for 40 seconds. That’s doubly challenging in the morning and at bedtime when I have to balance on my good leg long enough to wash my hands and brush my teeth! LOL!

    It’s all good, though. I am so blessed. Like you, I can easily stay home. I’ve had plenty of practice since I fractured my leg on January 27th.

    Excellent blog post, Janet!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I didn’t realize (remember?) you’d fractured your leg, Janet. Oh my. How exhausting that must be! That’s what I remember most about my sprained ankle in 2001– how exhausted I felt and frustrated. Thanks for stopping by and may your future weeks and months go smoothly for you.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  14. susan scott
    | Reply

    Just to wish you and your family and friends safety from this virus. We’re heading for lockdown, schools, libraries, restaurants etc closed. We may not gather anymore with more than 100 people. I’m self isolating to a significant extent. Fresh lemon juice in hot water alkanises one’s blood which is a good thing in spite of it being an acidic fruit. One of those paradoxes maybe like in isolation there can be togetherness. Fresh chopped garlic is also on the table, as is fresh chopped ginger. I make a concoction ..

    Obviously a HUGE concern is for the majority of our population who live in close quarters and use taxis for transport …

    We have confidence in our pres (for a change) and in our Health Minister who is foing a good job in disseminating info. As of yesterday 202 confirmed covi-d cases, no deaths. Fully aware that this will change –

    For the moment I cannot receive your most recent blog post, I think today’s one?

    Thank you for this lovely post! Humour helps hugely! And all those other nice things!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, next weeks blog on TV shows to stream slipped out the gate a bit too soon. Unedited, unfinished, … You’re limited to groups up to 100? I’m surprised, Susan. That seems like so many people. I slipped out yesterday to meet a woman I’m working with on a project here — we had to get a signed paper off in the mail. We’ve both been self isolating for days and met outdoors, but still I wonder if the others who walked past us were contagious? Did we pass along a virus in the pens we used? Was the risk worth
      the time we saved?

      Chopped garlic on your table? Then what? Do you eat it? Breath it in? I want you to toss it into a hot pan with a little olive oil. Now there’s an aroma we can all identify. Yummmm. Stay safe; stay well. Glad you stopped by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  15. Ellen Hawley
    | Reply

    There’s a sense, here in the UK, that staying home, especially if you’re in a vulnerable group isn’t just for yourself but for everyone–we don’t want to overwhelm the health system. I’ve been wondering if that’s also true in the US, where that all-in-it-together sense is, in my experience, weaker. What do you think?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Ellen. Excellent question. From my extensive research chatting with friends (via telephone) and reading national newspaper headlines, I can safely say, “It depends.” Here in Vermont we are working to flatten that curve. But it sounds like younger folk in more urban areas (Manhattan comes to mind, but there are others) are working on the premise they are immortal. Who said “youth is wasted on the young?” WC Fields? Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping in the era of COVID-19My Profile

  16. Enjoyed the post and each one of the comments – gives this time in our life perspective. I am going away with your comment that we’re living history. We’re staying in except for a weekly trip to the grocery store. I’m an introvert and was an only child so I can appreciate being without a crowd, but this is different in that we know we must stay in so the curve will flatten and life can return. Probably the one thing I’m struggling with is no sense of urgency to do anything because there is always tomorrow. I need to work on that. Stay safe.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Judy, and welcome. I too am an introvert and an only child. I love to sit in meditation and find the isolating life of writer much to my taste. Our local food stores offer curb side pickup now. We call in our order, they bring it to car. Haven’t used it yet, but we’re getting close. My mortality looms, I am all too aware. My growing edge? I am working to let go of my seeming need to know I’m in good hands. Thank you very much for stopping by.

  17. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Janet, it’s great to hear you’re doing well. We’re hanging in, as well. Exercise and music have been critical to me as well. Gardening, too. I need more humor, for sure. I find myself vacillating between moments of sheer resolve (i.e., like your reference to the Holocaust – “we’ll get through this, people have been through much worse”) and moments of true anxiety (“what will be left when this is all said and done”). I’ve kept well-informed, but as usual, too much information doesn’t always help. In any event, I’ve been thinking of you. Take care, and stay well! – T

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Gardening? You can garden now? We still have a foot or so of snow, though there are patches or dead grass showing and just before this last snowfall, I saw the tips of my irises poking up. But alas, they are buried once again. I am jealous; please note. Currently I’m dealing with some idiosyncrasies in the new “order your food online” world. Turns out when we added a few items to an existing order, we doubled the initial order. And there seems no way to easily delete it. Frankly, it’s not a bad problem to have in the overall scheme of things. We choose how to respond, don’t we. Thanks for stopping over.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Suffering on the SofaMy Profile

      • Tim Fearnside
        | Reply

        Yes, despite our latitude, winters here are pretty mild, and spring tends to come early. I usually have a partial spring garden before planting out the summer stuff in May. Some, I have to keep under row cover at night or if we have an unusually cold day, but most usually makes it through. Stuff like lettuce, chard, kale, spinach, radishes, onions. I have some cabbages in and some rapini. Also garlic that I planted last Fall. I’ve also sown a few outdoor seeds – beets and carrots, some dill, and have quite a few herbs coming back from last year that made it through the winter. Indoors, I have some stuff that I start from seed under lights. Tomatoes and a few peppers (most of the peppers didn’t germinate). I’ll wait on some of the faster growing stuff, like zucchini, pumpkins, squash, etc., which don’t take long to sprout up. Anyway, more than you probably wanted to know! Good luck sorting out the hazards of online shopping. I think everyone’s trying to figure out how to navigate this strange new world.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Three phone calls later, turns out the folks at were most helpful. But the notion that we can add food items to an existing border just ain’t so. (Despite it saying so) Yes, we are in figuring it out as we go mode. First World Problem #87 Enjoy your gardening. You’ve reminded me it’s time to start some things under lights in the basement.
          Janet Givens recently posted…Suffering on the SofaMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a blog you'd like to share? I use CommentLuv Click here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.