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Guest Commentary: Mental Health & COVID-19 

Channeling optimism and gratitude in the face of a pandemic

“I’m losing my f*ing mind,” said a stranger to me as we shared a few words along a walking trail recently. We were discussing what a relief it was to be outdoors after so many hours spent isolated at home.

I passed many other walkers and runners that day, and I am not exaggerating when I say that nearly every one of them exchanged a smile and an expression that conveyed empathy and understanding. It was uncanny. I cannot recall another time in my life where I could go walk down the street and think to myself, every one of these people knows exactly what I’m going through…and I, them.

I am as appalled by what is happening and anxious about what’s to come as the next person. But I find myself, in the midst of days where I wish, more than anything, I could go to a coffee shop or restaurant or state park and enjoy the company of my friends, feeling so grateful for the unprecedented way in which this virus has brought us together.

Obviously, we are physically apart. But I’m sure you feel it, too – that we are all on the same side right now. For once. There is no such thing as pro-virus and anti-virus. We all want to beat this thing. Healthy people are doing everything they can to help the ill. Those who can continue to work, and can afford their mortgages and rent payments, are chipping in to do what they can for the people who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling to afford groceries. Across the globe, not a single person is immune to the effects of what is occurring, and I think we should make an effort to find the beauty in that.

click image Chaos theory's butterfly effect, illustrated using a light source attached at the free end of double pendulum. - CHRISTIAN V., WIKIMEDIA
  • Christian V., Wikimedia
  • Chaos theory's butterfly effect, illustrated using a light source attached at the free end of double pendulum.

Yes, change is uncomfortable. Disruption of routine creates a certain amount of chaos, which leads to irritability and frustration. But I would urge you to feel those emotions and let them pass. Because, if we can be so mindful as to recognize the positives of being forced to slow down and spend more time with our families and reach out to friends we haven’t talked to in months, then I think there is a real chance we can emerge from this pandemic a better human race.



As a single, apartment-dwelling millennial, I am also sympathetic to the fact that not everyone is fortunate enough to be sheltered with their loved ones right now. Being forced into isolation without a strong support system is a recipe for anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide. Though I am encouraged by seeing so much humanity, I also want to stress to those who are feeling isolated that taking advantage of technology in every form to stay connected and supported is crucial right now. Counselors and physicians are able to accept new patients via telemedicine appointments during this emergency, and this is a service that should absolutely be taken advantage of, particularly with regard to mental health concerns. There is understandably a lot of emphasis being placed on those who are acutely ill with viral symptoms at this time, but a mental health crisis could be on the horizon, and, if we are too focused on putting out one fire, we will fail to see another one coming.

In closing, I just want to challenge you to remember this feeling a few months from now when life is approaching a steady state again. Remember the feeling of wanting to FaceTime your college friends to talk about what quarantine looks like where they are, the feeling of being okay with slowing down because it’s nice to think about the bigger issues that we usually don’t have time to be concerned with, and the feeling of being connected with the rest of the human race in a common goal of health and prosperity. When discussions of the election resume, try to remember the smile you gave the stranger on the walking path, being completely unconcerned with their political leanings. While we focus on individual health, let’s also use this opportunity to build healthier relationships, communities and countries.


-Jenna Hamza is a naturopathic physician in Bend. She is currently accepting new patients for telehealth visits at drjennahamza.com.

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