The novel coronavirus outbreak, known as COVID-19, began in 2019. It originated in Wuhan, China. Today, the harmful and often fatal disease touches nearly every corner of the world. According to the New York Times, the first proven case in the United States arose January 21, 2020. Since that dim day, hundreds of thousands of people have fallen ill. Thousands have died.
The Center For Disease (CDC) reports American deaths due to COVID-19 on its website. The week ending August 8, 2020, the CDC reported 149,192 deaths involving COVID-19 in the United States. More Americans have died since that date. For certain, the dismal reports of lives cut short and the disease infection rates impose a psychological toll on many. A Census Bureau survey found that one in three Americans report depression or anxiety symptoms. Census Bureau also found that depression or anxiety among Americans spiked more than three times the rate reported in the first half of 2019.
The CDC states social distancing helps to fight COVID-19. Social distancing, where people often go long periods without seeing loved ones, can put one in a depressed state of mind. Depression symptoms may vary from mild to severe. The American Psychological Association states symptoms can include trouble sleeping, difficulty thinking, changes in appetite, feelings of sadness, loss of energy, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and thoughts of death. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic many Americans face depression. In fact a CNN reported that the former First Lady Michelle Obama said she suffers from "low-grade depression." She identified the pandemic as a contributing factor.
Recently, I spoke before the University of Maryland Global College (UMGC) Power Speakers Toastmasters club. I shared that I often write poetry when feeling overwhelmed. Two months ago, I uploaded my poems on Amazon and published my creative works in a book titled Sipping Wine Over Rhymes. Writing poetry serves as my way of journaling.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, "journaling can provide general wellness and self-improvement benefits." Notably, the National Institute of Health reports the benefits of expressive writing for people suffering depression. Long before the pandemic, I started the practice of what I have termed - "poetic journaling." As a federal whistle-blower, who faced harmful retaliation, I found writing poetry therapeutic. It allowed me the freedom to deeply and meaningfully write about the racial inequality and troubling events I faced in the federal government over several years.
No one knows how long the pandemic or its harmful effects will stay with us. Therefore, I encourage those reading this article to practice self-care. Make time to do activities that bring you joy especially during these unsettling pandemic and political times. Self-care helps to counteract loneliness, ease negative thoughts, and cope with depression. As for me, "during these anxious days of shelter in place, I often retreat to a quiet and pleasing space,where literature calms worries within, and I warmly welcome poetry like a cherished friend."