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Friday, January 28, 2022

PACE Yourself for the Long Haul: Surviving the Pandemic

Continue to be mindful

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As vaccine distribution has gained momentum around the country, our year-long struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic is nearly over. However, this is when we need to have the most focused and mindful endurance to stay on course and make it to the finish line. Of course, we are fatigued, and therefore at greater risk of engaging in risky behavior. 

But we need to continue on mindfully with deliberate intentions and behaviors to protect ourselves and others to avoid potential pitfalls. We may feel tempted to ease our guard and relax prematurely, letting up on our effort to minimize exposure and spread of the virus. 

More than ever, we need to sustain our efforts by wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings, handwashing, quarantining when we feel sick and getting tested when needed. By taking good care of ourselves for the long haul of this pandemic, until enough people are vaccinated, we are also taking care of others. Survival comes from awareness and commitment to our shared human values and our interdependence. 

Here are some suggestions for attitudes and behaviors to cultivate safety and progress for all. In reciprocity and good will, let’s do our part to all be here at the end of this pandemic together.

PACE yourself, both internally and externally, for the journey which still remains to the end of the pandemic:

P is for Patience. Being patient allows you to focus on protecting yourself and others by optimizing pre-planning and preparation. Practicing patience also helps you maintain your perspective on the big picture while remaining focused on your pacing for the finish line. Be sure to appreciate how far you have come and the positive coping strategies you have used. 

A is for Awareness of your state of mind, including your feelings, thoughts, needs, behaviors, and current situation. Awareness of yourself and your surroundings optimizes making good choices for yourself and minimizes the potential risk of mistakes or overreactions.  Awareness is valuable knowledge, and knowledge leads to the power to choose your next step to avoid drawbacks that may increase your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Awareness involves patience, self-honesty and self-acceptance in order to break through minimization or denial of risks, thereby enabling you to adapt effectively. 

C is for Cultivating Calm.  A calm mind opens up a world of opportunity to improve your well-being. By cultivating calm, you are choosing to contribute to the greater good by combating the contagion of fear regarding the pandemic and countering any unhealthy reactions such as aggression or denial. Being patient and mindfully aware contributes to cultivating calm. They are a powerful trio for practicing safety and mutual empowerment in this time of the pandemic.

E is for Empowering yourself and each other to remain healthy until this marathon is finished, and the pandemic is over.  Empathy and encouragement for yourself and each other is validating and reinforcing for staying on course. Mutual empathy and empowerment can also be healing, rejuvenating and energizing for those feeling lonely, isolated or exasperated. 

During this difficult pandemic, after sustained effort for so long to protect oneself and others, it is important to see how far we have come and to honor the tough choices we have made to sustain ourselves. We continue to have important choices to make individually and collectively moving forward which can make a big difference in survival. We have the power. 

As Gandhi was known to have said, “We can be the change we want to see in the world.”

So please PACE yourself for this pandemic marathon. Practice patience, calm, awareness, and empowerment. Connecting to these attitudes can help us all defeat the COVID-19 virus. 

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Remain mindful of your path and the road ahead. The road is long, but we are strong, each one of us an important part of the human family.

Jamie R. Funderburk is a Clinical Associate Professor and a Licensed Psychologist at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center.

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