DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Earworms have been weaving through my brain and they aren't the kind that gorge on corn.
It all started last week when I heard the sad news that Kenny Rogers had passed. My mind hit the gas and I was mentally 8 miles from Memphis looking for dead-end signs. While he may be known best for knowing when to hold 'em or fold 'em, Rogers also sang the lead vocals on The First Edition's, "Just Dropped In."
Yeah, yeah, oh yeah -- THAT song: "I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in."
I'm so sorry, because just reading that line of lyrics has undoubtedly now embedded an earworm, a catchy piece of music that repeats after it is no longer playing, in your brain, too. This song is infectious.
Checking on others has taken on new meaning this week as stay-at-home orders and equally infectious virus-related restrictions have upended life as we know it.
Friends can't just drop in, but at least in my case, they are calling, texting, emailing and otherwise messaging to beat the band. I can only assume that folks are suddenly bored to the point of cleaning out closets and opening dusty yearbooks because I've heard from people I've not spoken to in years.
Even my children are calling to check on my condition.
It's all good social distancing practice because we are no longer supposed to, as Diana Ross sang so convincingly, "Reach out and touch, somebody's hand."
Enter new earworm.
While it may seem small, this sudden hands-off policy is the hardest part of the "new normal" for me. I'm not sure I realized how important hand shaking, hugs and other forms of personal contact are to me, until it wasn't OK to physically reach out and touch all those -- now properly washed for at least 20 seconds -- hands. And, dagnabbit, I just got my farm family acclimated to the concept of hugging. The world does not feel like a better place with this new awkwardness.
Because of COVID-19, many of our usual habits have been disrupted. Some of these activities we might not have even realized are relief valves built into our day-to-day lives, until they were no longer there. Church, grandchildren, sporting events, visiting elderly, even pausing to say howdy as we pass someone on a back road -- all are now changed or are, for the moment, questionable.
It's easy to say one day this will be over, but right now it may not feel like it. While farmers tend to be accustomed to long periods of alone time, this virus is changing how you enter the feed store, the machinery dealership, the bar where you typically grab an order of tacos as take-out. Offices important to government programs are closed. Even how you dump grain has been altered.
Let's don't forget children and spouses that may be at home or hanging around the shop. After a couple of weeks of togetherness, there's nowhere to hide and nowhere to run to, baby ...
Cue the Q-tips ... let's just agree change can be stressful -- unless there's hope of earworm relief. Just know you are not alone if the days suddenly seem alike and this time of COVID-19 has become challenging.
Last fall, I found myself worrying about 2019 and how much we were doing to help farmers weather the storms of a tough year. Those mental health topics lumped with some deadline pressures, family matters and just life stuff started to feel overwhelming.
So, I signed up for a stress management class -- convincing myself I was participating as article research. One day each week for a month, I met with a holistic nurse and a small group of professional women to explore the reasons behind behaviors such as procrastination, perfectionism, guilt and why some of us struggle to take time for self.
My class has since evolved into a small group from all walks of life that meets monthly to tackle topics related to improving life balance. I'm pretty sure my condition will never be unconditional, but I have picked up some ideas to help me cope when stress becomes stressful.
Cast aside opinions about new age mindfulness for a second, there's power in putting life on pause -- however briefly. My mind is too cluttered to keep my brain in neutral for long periods of meditation. However, I do find deep breathing and letting go of a big whooooosh of negative thoughts in a giant exhale to be calming.
FIND YOUR SPOT
You don't need a fancy she shed or a man cave, but it is definitely handy to have a personal spot to find peace and practice that deep breathing (or singing the song you can't seem to forget).
SLEEP ON IT
Sleep is restorative. It's not always easy to get with so much unrest, but sleep is good medicine.
"Dead-end" is usually a tell-tale sign that I've been sitting too much. While all of us work hard, today's tools and technology have us doing more mental than physical work. Take a walk, work in the garden, breathe deep some more.
LAUGH A LITTLE
Even those of us in the information business can overdose on the onslaught of bad news. It's important to stay informed, but not to dwell. That's especially true when children are in the household. Sing, dance, get kooky if you can. Where's that old game of Twister?
Networking helps. Support groups shouldn't be complaint sessions; rather, include people who can help filter legitimate fears. We may need to stay 6 feet apart, but there are many ways to reach out. Try group video conferencing or FaceTime group calls. Sometimes just having a call buddy to message a good morning clear the fog.
Finally, if there's a bright spot to what we're all going through, it may be that we've been forced to slow down and rediscover what home, family and friendship is all about. That's something to sing about.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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