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Pandemic Perspective: Navigating an Uncertain Future

Overnight, our world has become a confusing place. Our collective response to the coronavirus pandemic has upended normal traditions, disrupted our communities and claimed the lives of thousands.

Public health actions have become politically polarized – and different depending on where you live. As individuals, we’re left to navigate what’s safe and what’s not for ourselves and for our families.

We know the basics: wash our hands; social distance; wear a mask.

But as we move forward and face the remainder of 2020, we’re left asking ourselves: how do we navigate our lives with the coronavirus present – while keeping both our physical and mental health intact?

The decisions you have to make right now are difficult.

Everyone is grappling with questions they don’t know how to answer. Do I send my children to school? How do I interact with extended family members? How do I care for an aging loved one? How do I maintain my relationship with friends and family who have different beliefs about the pandemic?

For some of us, difficult decisions are forced: jobs may be inflexible, or the budget is too tight. Childcare may not be available. School districts may only be offering virtual classes – or may only be offering in-person instruction.

If you or your family have underlying health conditions that may put you at a higher risk for becoming severely ill from COVID-19, your primary care provider can be a good resource to help provide guidance and clarity.

There are also many questions that can’t be answered. The promise of a vaccine for COVID-19 is very real, but not yet available. Schools may be taking safety measures, but whether students can follow them all day remains to be seen. Scientists are still learning more about the disease itself, and don’t know how long immunity lasts for those that have already been exposed to the coronavirus.

There is no playbook for this chapter of our lives – but remember: your health and wellness are the main priority during this season of uncertainty.

Trust yourself to know you’re making the right choice for you.

As you weigh any decision about how to participate in daily activities in this pandemic, know that your comfort level is your own – you must make the choice that’s right for you.

The boundaries you are comfortable with in the “new normal” of the pandemic may be different than that of your extended family, friends and neighbors. Accept that you must advocate for yourself and your family in this time to prioritize your mental and physical health.

Focus on controlling what you can: follow recommended safety precautions to keep yourself and those around you physically healthy. Take steps to preserve your mental health with self-care.

Give yourself grace to adjust your approach. If a decision you thought was best for your life or your family ends up causing unanticipated stress or conflict, it’s OK to make a change.

Remember: wear a mask, social distance – and take a few deep breaths. Making the “right” decision about how to move forward in the new normal may look different for everyone. Focus on what’s truly important to your health and well-being, and you’ll have the confidence to know you’re making the best choice possible in an impossible situation.

Dr. Amy McKenzie, M.D., is a medical director of provider engagement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

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