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  • Rabbi Yehuda Kamenetzky

Perspectives on COVID

Here are some interesting tidbits to provide you with some thoughtful and hashkafic perspective on COVID-19 based on some questions that were presented to me and the answers I have given.


Question:

This coronavirus thing has really thrown me. I feel like I've lost all sense of certainty. No one knows what will happen next. How do we stay sane when we don't know what's lurking around the corner?


Answer:

It is not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of certainty. We never had it to begin with. This could be majorly unsettling, or amazingly liberating.

I reminisce to the time when I was 19 and diagnosed with the world's most deadly brain tumor. I quickly learned that in order to stay sane I had to give up the things I had always thought were certainties and realize that, "in life, nothing is certain." I was now totally in the hands of Hashem, and once I made peace with that fact, nothing could bring me down.

I share my personal story and how emunah got me through it in the book, Brainstorm, published by Artscroll/Mesorah. There are many tips and stories contained within that discuss the concept of

Hashem is in Control.

This tiny virus of 125 nanometers (billionth of a meter) has sent the entire world into chaos. All of our plans are up in the air, markets are going crazy, entire countries shutting down, and we have no clue what the future holds.

But that is always the case. We never know what the future holds. We only think we do, and keep getting surprised when things don't pan out the way we expected. Now the mask is off. We have to admit our vulnerability.

What will happen next? We don't know. Our experts don't know. Our leaders don't know. Only Hashem knows. And that is the point. Only Hashem knows.

Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty, make peace with it, let yourself be taken by it. Embrace your cluelessness. Because in all the confusion there is one thing you know for sure.


You are in Hashem's hands.


Keep calm. Panic and fear are also contagious. Take every precaution as advised by health authorities.

Wash your hands well.

When you Wash Your Hands

Remember Whose Hands You Are In.

Question:

Life at home can be quite chaotic. In what way can I create a sense of order in the home and maintain some sanity?

Answer:

Children are accustomed to routine. Establishing some routines can be helpful even when not in a "going to and from school" situation.

The following is a list that I compiled for those in self-quarantine.

• Daven - Do not daven when you wake up. Wake up to daven. Make a to-do list of all the things you want to achieve each day to create a sense of normality and productivity.

• Break up your day - Find tasks to break up your day and, where possible, change your environment for different activities.

• Take care of your body - Eat healthily, get plenty of sleep and exercise daily. That could include conducting indoor workout classes, stretching and practicing meditation.

• Help others - If you're not under strict isolation rules yourself, and you're in a position to do so, find ways to support those in need by offering to run errands and collect supplies for them. Call relatives, friends even teachers. You can even have the children call me!

• Stay connected - Make the most of technology and stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family via phone calls, texts, social media and video conferencing.

• Limit media intake - Stay informed about the situation via reliable sources, but limit your news and social media intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

• Prepare medical supplies - The National Alliance on Mental Illness advises, where necessary, asking your doctor for extended prescription supplies to tide you over for quarantine periods.

• Fight boredom - Try reading, set a goal with learning be it Chumash or Mishneh or Gemara. Try exploring projects you have been putting off to beat boredom and stay mentally active.

• Avoid burnout - Set strict limits to your work to avoid becoming overwhelmed and make time to unwind.

• Focus on the positives - Amplify good news stories and honor caregivers working tirelessly to resolve the situation.

• Take one day at a time - Try not to project too far into the future. Remember that these are temporary measures and you are not alone.

It seems that in one way or another we all have heard about people that we know who are being affected by COVID-19. Here are some psychological symptoms to be wary of and following are some tips on how we can positively effect our mental health well-being.

* Increased anxiety, worry, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed

* Depressive symptoms (e.g., intense sadness, irritability, lethargy, loss of pleasure, etc.) that persist and/or intensify

* A new inability to focus or concentrate

* A feeling of hopelessness and/or a paralyzing fear about

the future

* Sudden anger and disruptive behaviors or noticeable changes in personality

* Changes in sleep patterns - either getting too much or not enough sleep

* Changes in appetite and eating behaviors

* Excessive crying

* Isolating or withdrawing from others, fear of going into public situations

* Unhealthy coping (e.g., increased alcohol or drug use, engaging in risky/impulsive behaviors.)

Psychological Health Tips:

• Acknowledge reactions:

• Allow yourself time to reflect on what you are feeling and how you may be reacting to any fears and uncertainties of the future.

• Maintain your day-to-day normal activities and social outlets as much as you can. Resist withdrawing and isolating yourself from the support and caring that others can provide.

• Seek accurate information from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and limit exposure to social media and news reports that provide no new information.

• Pay attention to positive news instead of only focusing on negative and fear-producing reports.

• Follow the protection and prevention tips given by medical professionals such as national medical authorities, and your own medical doctor.

• Practice calming rituals:

• Stay grounded in the present moment, which can help you maintain an internal sense of stability and balance when outside events feel threatening.

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