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March 1, 2021

One year ago this month our lives drastically changed. On March 16, 2020, our province went in to its first lockdown. Join me as I take a moment to check in on the past year.

It is hard to believe that one year ago I was returning home from facilitating polar bear discussions in Montreal. There were some signs that change was coming. A few people in the airports were wearing masks. There were some reports of illness in other parts of the world; however, here in our province it was essentially unheard of. An unknown woman, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald was making a few comments to the press and we were living a normal life.

Old Montreal, 2020

Jump ahead a couple of weeks and I attended a family birthday gathering. Two of my uncles, and an aunt all have birthdays in March and each year we gather for a family blind potluck. It is a blind potluck because no one tells each other what we are bringing. It is always fascinating that we have very few duplicate dishes! This year, there will be no family gathering to celebrate. A gathering of 35+ family and friends is unthinkable!

Two days after our celebration, our province went in to its first lockdown due to COVID-19 being in our communities. We were scared, nervous, anxious, frustrated, and determined to do what we were being told so that we and our loved ones could be safe. During the first lockdown we had no idea how long it would last. We prepared to stay home in isolation as long as it took.

At first, it was fun! A chance to stay in pajamas all day, snack when we wanted, spend time with loved ones in our home, no commute to work. This is not so bad, right?

Fortunately, the most secure lockdown lasted only a few months. We slowly began to see restrictions ease and we got to bubble up with another bubble and expand our interactions with one another. Then the past couple of weeks came the dreaded news. We are in another full lockdown province-wide.

Third Quarter Phenomenon

When developing some curriculum last spring I came across an article on third quarter phenomenon (TQP). It is well documented about what happens to people in long periods of isolation. Studies have been done with astronauts in space, folks working in the far North in isolation, and people working on submarines. The novelty of isolation begins to wear off and the uncertainty sets in.

TQP is characterized by the following:

  • Agitation – Agitation refers to a state of nervous “excitement” or anxiety. When agitated, we feel keyed up and on edge, possibly hyper-vigilant, looking for reasons to be worried or fixes for our anxiety.
  • Irritability – When we feel irritable, we feel as though we have lost a sense of insulation between ourselves and others and our experiences and responses to them. Everything feels close to the surface and we are highly reactive. Research links intolerance, grouchiness, frustration, psychological tension, and touchiness to irritability.
  • Depression/Fluctuation in Mood It is normal to feel “blue” when faced with a completely disorienting reality. Owning, normalizing, and working through these feelings can keep them from turning into full-blown depression. If you are experiencing prolonged low mood with excessive guilt, loss of pleasure, sleep/eating changes, and hopelessness for more than two weeks, it’s crucial that you reach out to a mental health professional.
  • Decreased Morale Morale is defined as “the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person or group at a particular time.” As we have seen, the manifestation of community morale as expressed by staying home, wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing, and applauding our front-line workers each evening has flattened the curve as well as raised our spirits. Morale is an important energetic force that helps people make choices for the good of the group. When morale is high, we are more likely to be dedicated to communal goals.

I don’t know about you; however, I am certainly feeling one or more of these things at any given time. I try to do a check in once in awhile of myself and how I am feeling at that moment to see if I need to take any actions to pull myself out of a funk. I check in on my husband, daughters, parents and other family and friends to see how they are doing. As always, if anyone is feeling like they are struggling and need help, reach out to the resources that are available.

I do remain optimistic. A week ago, my 96-year old grandfather received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our collective efforts seem to be flattening the curve on the latest outbreak in our province. The Atlantic provinces are doing well and I am hopeful that our Atlantic bubble will return and we can see our daughter in person again soon. Across Canada, numbers are heading in the right direction.

Pop receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

In the words of the now well-known Dr. Fitzgerald, hold fast. We are going to be okay. Our lives changed a year ago. I wonder how much they will change again in the year to come. ~ Carole