2020 Skill #1: Adapt to These Messy Times

It is strange but true, that the most important turning points of life often come at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways. –Napoleon Hill, author and alleged conman

Messy Times.

In my six decades on this planet, I’ve never experienced a messier time. And with the speed of technology and information, these are truly uncharted waters. Amy and I were out walking and considering whether or not we had anything to add to the voices chiming in on the COVID-19 virus management, shut-downs, risk, and fear. We have decided that we, like many in mental health, have a perspective that can coalesce the thoughts that many of us share.


First—some old business:

While MessyMarvelous.com has been quiet for a while, Amy and I have continued to talk, brainstorm, and write (yes—we have been writing this past year). In fact, we have written a book that is currently in the hands of an editor/publisher. Many of you have offered the feedback over the years that we should publish a book and, perhaps because we continue to be busy personally and professionally like our readers, we have taken time and careful consideration to find the right way for us to approach this dream.  Expect that we will offer more information as we move forward.


Now to the current state of affairs:

Corona virus. Stock market. Closings. Cancellations. Shortages.

Travel bans. Quarantines. Deaths.

General rancor.

These are not what we expected as our shiny new decade dawned weeks ago. As the virus spread exponentially in many countries last week, I commented on Thursday night that it felt like a house of cards had been falling all day long with the cancellations, closings, postponements, and uncertainty. I think I’ve said “we’ll just have to wait and see” or “only time will tell” more times in a week than my whole life put together. Three days later, I already feel a new normal settling in. Uncertainty is our new normal. At least for a while.

So I am sitting on my back porch surrounded by pollen, watching a sleeping cat, listening as a soft rain begins, and noticing a thin branch on a tree in the back yard that is moving rhythmically. Leaning out to inspect it more closely, I discover a female cardinal bouncing it by her hopping along its length. Taking a deep breath, I realize this is the marvelous side to this messy, messy time. I don’t know how long it has been since I sat and noticed the beautiful nature, literally, in my backyard.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended on to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. –Abraham Lincoln

What to do now:

What do we do to get through this emerging crisis without sacrificing our health or mental health as we wait and see what will happen here in our country? Here are a few simple tips that are standard in the face of a crisis such as this one:

  • Limit your exposure. Of course limit your actual exposure to the virus, but equally as important, limit your mental and emotional exposure. While it is imperative to be informed and this situation is rapidly changing, but there is only so much stress that our brains and bodies (and their alarms systems) can absorb before we make our own immune systems more vulnerable. Make a scheduled time to catch up on the news or research updates then turn it off.
  • Utilize only reliable scientific medical sources for accurate information. Do not use social media. There are already numerous slick looking infographics and “informational” memes which are inaccurate or completely wrong. Here are a few places that will have up-to-date accurate medical science:
  1. Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html
  2. American Medical Association: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  3. World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen
  4. Another WHO page: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-facts-infographic
  6. Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center
  • The American Psychological Association has also published a resource guide on how to separate yourself and stay connected: https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing
  • DO NOT spread misinformation. Make sure your sources are factual.
  • While public health can be a political issue, we should keep in mind this is a public health crisis and consider setting aside the political posturing as WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. This is the time to pull together and bring our best selves to the arena of community health and well-being.
  • Technology is on our side. It allows us to be connected when separated. We can download books, stream movies without going to a theater or store, listen to “live” concerts in our living rooms, play games with people in other places, and many other tasks that would be unavailable in the previous century. Many people will even be able to do at least some (if not all) work from home online.
  • Like my little backyard meditation paragraph above, how can you take advantage of this “time out” to experience some substantive rest. Real rest. The restorative kind. This slowdown may be a bit of an antidote to our lifestyles of “busyness.”
  • There is nothing so far that should prevent us from the ability to get out in nature. It is the advantage of life in much (but of course, NOT ALL) of the US vs. the population density in most European villages and cities. If we have to confine ourselves to our homes, most of us have patios and yards. Maybe this is the time to start a small garden.
  • Neither minimization nor alarm-ism are adaptive. We need to make reasonable, cautious decisions that include an examination of latest facts.
  • Common sense is always a parsimonious path. Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, avoid crowds, plan ahead. Do what makes sense when others could be infected without knowing it.

So in this messy, messy unprecedented end of winter and early spring, protect yourself physically and emotionally. Use reasonable caution. And as we slow down, look for what is marvelous, maybe even in your own backyard. Happy handwashing!


Rhea Ann Merck, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist, persistent woman, mother of 2 amazing young women, writer, teacher, life-long learner, curious & creative human, lover of life, passionate about making life better every day…


3 thoughts on “2020 Skill #1: Adapt to These Messy Times”

  1. Ty both so much! How blessed was I to have you both in my life at times when I needed you most! And to have you again….double blessed!!

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