My downstairs neighbor is a doctor, so I conferred with her about the coronavirus. Ariel Talts is an osteopathic physician, specializing in family medicine. She left a program at a local hospital in October 2019 and is preparing to start private practice.  Ariel may not be on the front lines, but a large percentage of physicians are not actively involved in combatting the coronavirus.

She does consult with colleagues, though, who are under tremendous stress. She noted that they work in a petri dish for a living. As dangerous as the virus is to physical health, Ariel focused on the damage it can do to our mental health. Anxiety and stress can undermine our immune systems.

I have a relative who has so much anxiety about the virus, she became exhausted. Her doctor recommended she be tested for the virus. It came back negative, which shows she needs to find a better way to manage anxiety and depression. Ariel offered up a helpful quote, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

She said a lot of people catastrophize by nature and the torrent of information we’re getting is making it worse. She pointed to the flood of false information, conflicting information, and ever-changing information. Not everyone is catastrophizing. Some are too cavalier about the outbreak. She said many young, healthy people are not taking the disease seriously enough.

They are oblivious to the danger of giving it to someone else, blissfully unaware at best, selfish at worst. Ariel believes if we don’t maintain our social-distancing, the coronavirus could become as devastating as the 1918 Spanish flu. She also thinks many of the measures we’re taking should have already been part of our regimen. Frequent handwashing, for example, and not shaking hands. Social-distancing has taken personal safety to another level.

Social-distancing is a huge step, she acknowledges, and it’s crippling our economy. Financial disaster, though, doesn’t have to be a stressor. We have to accept it. “We’re all hurting, all suffering, all losing a lot of money,” Ariel said, but believes this shared suffering gives a sense of solidarity to our community. We should approach the crisis with a sense of vigilant caution rather than fear.

As we shelter in place, we have no excuse not to take care of ourselves. Now is the time to get adequate rest and eat healthy meals. She said the severity of every ailment depends on the host. We have to make ourselves well, so we don’t become vulnerable. She said viruses are much smarter than humans and mutate to survive.

Ariel noted that self-pity is rampant and that many of us are overdosing on TV. Some are avoiding these pitfalls by doing what we can for others. The tiny things we do give us a sense of accomplishment. I look at how Empowering Gardens passed out plants door-to-door as a way to lift our spirits.

Ariel appreciates the cohesiveness of Forest Park. She comes from a small town in North Carolina and sees our village as a “great little gem of a community.” She feels safe here and is using this time of social-distancing to “find her bliss.” Many of us have the time to explore new hobbies.

We can also enjoy the pastimes that always kept us sane. I experience bliss every evening by playing the keyboard. I may not sound smooth to others but I always sound good to myself.

I just hope I’m not disturbing Ariel.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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