Anxiety and an Airedale

Coping during COVID-19.

One morning this week, in the midst of the COVID-19 chaos, I woke at dawn. The night had been filled with anxious dreams and the endless rearranging of pillows under my head. I checked the clock and realized I’d barely managed four hours of sleep. I felt lousy. 

Once downstairs in the kitchen I sat down at my laptop. Like so many others, my office is closed and I am working from home. The few hours before anyone else is up are wonderfully quiet, and with a cup of tea I was ready to face my inbox.

It didn’t take long until I could feel the stress in my shoulders. My cheeks flushed as I (again!) tried to come up with strategies to cope with yet another change. I answered questions from staff even though I barely knew anything myself. I checked with the bookkeeper about our cash flow. I fretted.

Thankfully, I have a dog. Minnie is a nine-year-old Airedale Terrier who came to us as a rescue. Despite all of my attempts to avoid such a responsibility, I have become her person. She follows me around, lays on the floor beside me no matter where I sit, and asks me for walks every time I put on my shoes. 

I don’t know if she sensed my stress or just wanted to go out. But when she insistently nudged me with her nose, I decided a walk wouldn’t hurt. I grudgingly got my coat. 

Where I live there are walking trails right outside my door so I put on my boots, found the leash and ventured out. In my head I was grumbling about how much I would rather be sleeping and how much work I still had to do. And why did I always have to be the one to walk the dog?  

I walked a long way, mostly by accident because I was so absorbed in my thoughts. I finally stopped because the dog stopped. While she nibbled on some grass, I looked up at the sky. 

The open expanse above my head was surprisingly blue. I heard a bird call out and it began to dawn on me that I felt a little better. I took a deep breath and that felt good, too. Then I rolled my eyes at myself. Of course you feel better. Getting outside always helps. That’s what everybody says. 

This pandemic has left many of us exhausted, anxious, or worse. But one thing that has not changed is the beautiful planet we live on. The sun rises and sets. The birds sing their songs. The heavens are still telling the glory of God.

Since there is no way for any of us to avoid the pain of this pandemic, I hope you will heed the advice of people far wiser than me. Go for a walk. Or stand out on the balcony. Sit by an open window if that’s all you can do. That breath of fresh air will help. I promise.


  • Kristine O’Brien

    Kristine is executive director at Crieff Hills Retreat Centre in Puslinch, Ont. Visit them at crieffhills.com. Crieff acknowledges the traditional territory inhabited by the Chonnonton people, and other First Nations neighbours including the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and The Métis nation.

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