Unemployment numbers due to the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine are through the roof, but many people considered essential workers are still going to work to ensure our society's needs are met. This puts those who live with a person who the state has deemed an essential worker on the front lines of contagion risk, and living with high anxiety.
"I had to up my anti-depressants, I was barely sleeping three hours a night." confided Marie, a mother of 3, who's married to a nurse, an essential worker during this pandemic.
Fear reigns for Maria and others. A lot of partners of essential workers are worried about the safety of their significant other but also about safeguarding their home from the disease that might be on the partner's clothes or possessions.
Catherine is married to a man who works in a warehouse. Their new normal includes him disrobing in their front entrance and rushing off to the washroom for a shower, while she disinfects everything he touched.
Marie and her husband's routine differs, "He now gets his uniform at work. He changes at work, drops the uniform in the hospital laundry bin. He changes back into his street clothes and comes home and washes his hands."
They've also changed their sleeping arrangements. Her husband doesn't sleep in their bedroom anymore. He sleeps in their spare room, to allow him to get a decent night's rest. The idea is that nurses and doctors who are exhausted are at greater risk of severe complications when they contract the coronavirus contagion.
A common theme for a lot of essential workers ranging from gas station attendants, grocery clerks, even funeral home workers is that they haven't been given directives on protecting their homes and themselves from their workplace. The Canadian government has a webpage dedicated to preventing coronavirus disease titled, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks.
It gives a lot of useful advice, but it is left to each individual how to piece together a hygiene routine that makes them feel secure with the essential worker going to and from work—creating different levels of hygiene care.
Not having a plan from the government or the workplace can add to the fear and stress each essential worker and his family feels at this time.
Marie has spoken to her husband about her fears, even about him quitting or just not going to work. He refuses, and although it's hard, she understands him. "He says it's like a soldier. Would a soldier not work because it's a war! If everybody stops working, who will care for the sick?"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put together a list of things that might help reduce the level of anxiety and stress of the pandemic.
A key thing to do is to support yourself.
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
Marie has incorporated a lot of those tips into her daily life. Such as adding exercise, not reading as much news and social media posts, and she's grown closer to her church using zoom to have prayer meetings.
"The daily prayers have helped so much," she says.