While we are all hoping for a better year in 2021, we’ve still got lots of problems to solve. Lots of people are suffering from depression and anxiety, mostly due to the pandemic. While this is understandable for people isolated at home, I’m surprised that it’s affected even those who still have their jobs.

I’m particularly concerned about all the children who are depressed and anxious. Their world has been terribly disrupted by the pandemic. I can only hope that they get to spend a lot of time outdoors.

And it isn’t just mental problems. I read in the KJ that we’re having lots more problems with our teeth. Lots of people are having problems with grinding, chipped or broken teeth, and jaw pain, much of it blamed on stress. Some blamed it on having to wear a mask.

While we are all hopeful about the vaccine, it’s rollout has been frustrating. The vice president said 20 million Americans would be vaccinated in December, but only 2 million were. Even though I’m 72 with a serious illness, I have no idea when and where I’ll be vaccinated. I wish my home health nurse could do it, but I’m afraid I’ll have to go into a store for the shots, something I really don’t want to do.  And there’s no way we could wait in our van for hours to get our shots.

Some actions taken by adults to address these problems are surprising. For example, lots of people have decided to raise chickens.

I am pleased that more people are spending time outdoors. Participation in all outdoor activities has skyrocketed, from snowmobiling to hunting and fishing. Our road is very active with runners and walkers, many accompanied by their dogs.

Because of my illness, ALS, my response to the pandemic has had to be very cautious. I used to have lots of visitors every week, but not now. We haven’t even been able to get together with our family.

We do Zoom every Sunday with our kids and grandkids and my brother and sister and their family members. I also zoom twice a month with ALS groups. And I participate in a lot of Zoomed meetings and events.

I also connect with lots of people through email and Facebook. I especially enjoy messages from readers who enjoy my columns and books.

Now that we’ve got snow and cold weather, I can’t ride up the road in my wheelchair. But my wife Linda and I enjoy driving around our area a couple times a week in our white van. If you see us drive by, be sure to wave!

I wish all of you could read Dr. Vivak Murthy’s book, “Together,” about the healing power of human connection in a sometimes lonely world. It’s an important book for all of us dealing with the isolation of the pandemic. He not only tells us about his patients suffering from depression and anxiety, but he offers great advice about how to deal with it — mostly by connecting with family and friends.

This statement on the back of the book is a great description of it: One of our most beloved surgeon generals, Murthy has a big heart and a big message.  We have a massive, deadly epidemic hidden in plain sight: Loneliness. It is as harmful to health as smoking and far more common. And as his gripping stories of the science and suffering make clear, we can do something about it. Together is a fascinating, moving, and essential reading.

And I really agree with this statement on the back of the book: “Together is an extraordinary and essential book for our time. With powerful stories and sobering truths, Dr. Murthy does a masterful job of showing how, even in the digital age, there’s no substitute for authentic human connection.”

So, no matter how you’re feeling, please reach out to your friends, neighbors, and family, on a regular basis, because we all need that to get through these tough times.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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