By Danny Mitola
I think we can all agree that we’re living in a strange moment in history right now. With the looming threat of COVID-19 hanging over everyone comes many challenges, from having to adjust to staying home all the time, to wondering where food will come from. A few months ago, I don’t think any UConn student (or college student I general) could have predicted that we would be forced off campus, essentially evicted from our homes, and in a situation necessitating the switch to online classes.
At the beginning of spring break, I wondered “How will I be able to get through this when many of the people I care about have been forced away from me? How will I deal with the increased isolation?” I have to admit, as the days have gone by, I’ve certainly adjusted, but I still grapple with these questions. I, like many other college students, have suffered from mental health issues in the past; to keep things short, this crisis has been bringing some past issues to surface.
And the scary thing – I’m not alone in this. Many others are struggling with these same issues. There has been an increase in depression and anxiety, among other issues, with more increase expected. The CDC has even put out a page on coping with mental health issues during the coronavirus pandemic. Right now, we as a collective population on this planet are facing many hardships in our lives.
But, I do believe now is a time for us to wake up. I’ve constantly thought that we’ve all been asleep for a while, metaphorically. Every day many suffer in their day-to-day lives following the “go-go-go” mentality, chasing material success and the promise of the happiness it will bring. The American Dream. What this crisis offers, in the very least, is a time to reflect. Usually, winter is the time to reflect. However, the universe has now given us this time in spring – an otherwise usually busy season. Now is a time to slow down, and focus on our mental health. Now is a time to practice self care.
My recommendation: “Self Care in Uncertain Times” by Maribeth Helen Keane. This zine was recommended to me by a fellow farmer at Spring Valley, and it’s a great read for coping with times like these.Originally written after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the idea of the zine is how to practice self care during moments in our lives where we are less than certain about how the world is going to change, both on a large scale and in our personal lives.
Much of the zine is written with the intention of practicing self care in the winter, when things naturally slow down. Keane encourages us to follow the natural shifts of the seasons, and mimic what the Earth is communicating to us. As spring is now upon us, this window has now passed. Now we’re offered another opportunity. COVID-19 has caused us to slow down during a time when other life is returning – a time when the crocuses, lilies, and hyacinths are popping up from their slumber; a time when the birds start singing more and more; a time when the sun is shining brighter, providing much needed warmth (and vitamin D). Amid all this chaos in the world, life is moving forward. There has never been a greater opportunity to practice self care than now, when we are more able to experience nature and connect with the Earth.
In her zine, Keane provides some herbal remedies as well, encouraging us to connect with nature more. My favorite section is on tea, and how when we drink tea, we must drink it slow, taking up to 20 minutes to finish it. And during this time, to think about the plant which is powering the taste and scent of the tea and the connections it brings. Then, she says, write about it. Keane urges us to live in the present moment, be slow, and experience life.
Maribeth Keane’s zine, “Self Care in Uncertain Times,” can be found on her website. Keane offers both a digital download and hard copy.
Within these 36 pages, Keane offers us her wisdom and a guide to living a life which includes self care. This is just what we need to heal right now. In all the crisis, in all the chaos, in all the uncertainty, we must breathe and find our calm. Happy reading! And take good care of yourselves.
Danny Mitola is the Long River Review poetry editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.