Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Staying Safe in the Age of Coronavirus

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m getting more and more scared. I learned that several people who live in my apartment complex have come down with COVID-19, and two have died. I have been following all of the rules, staying inside and going out only to get food and medicine. I even stopped taking walks in the neighborhood because I am afraid of walking by someone and breathing in their air.

Now I wonder if I can even get on the elevator in my building safely. I see that the maintenance people are scrubbing the building all the time, but if you look at the news, it feels like the world is coming to an end. What can I do to stay safe and sane? -- Living During COVID Times

DEAR LIVING DURING COVID TIMES: As our world turns upside down, most of us are feeling extra stress. The fact that you are living in a building where people have died exacerbates that stress because the danger feels so close.

Instead of being overcome by fear, though, take extra precautions when you absolutely have to go out. Cover your face. If you have a face mask, use that; otherwise, use a scarf that you keep on the entire time you are outside -- including in your elevator. Wear plastic or rubber gloves, if you have them. Try not to touch anything with your hands, even with gloves on. Don’t talk to people. Stay focused on what you have to do, and keep your distance -- at least 6 feet from away from other people.

Remember to take a moment to look at the sky and express gratitude for being alive and well in each moment. Gratitude can soften your worries. Disease has always been in the world. How we care for ourselves in this difficult time -- or any other -- is what matters. Be cautious, but also remain optimistic.

For safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, read cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/essential-goods-services.html.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have never worked as much as I am now -- even though I’m working from home. My teenage daughter tried to talk to me yesterday, and we couldn’t say a word to each other until dinnertime because I was on the phone every minute all day long. I even had to stay on my phone -- on mute! -- when I had to go to the bathroom. This is crazy. I need to manage my time better. I want to be there for my daughter and make time for basic necessities as I work. I’m nervous about establishing boundaries, though, because I don’t want my boss to think that I am slacking. What can I do? -- Boundaries

DEAR BOUNDARIES: Take a step back and think about how you worked before this pandemic. When did you take breaks? What did you do when your daughter needed you in the past? What was your rhythm? Now, write out your daily schedule by the hour, including meetings and phone calls. Incorporate coffee breaks and bathroom breaks into the schedule. Write in a time each day that is dedicated to your daughter. If she is awake, it can be before your workday starts. If not, it can be at your lunch break. Discuss it with her so she knows when your shared time will be. Then do your best to honor that.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)