It is the second week into the Bay Area Shelter-in-Place mandate and that is my mantra. "Do the best you can."
Everything has shifted slightly out of focus and normal tasks seem to take a great deal more attention and motivation.
The news is worse, if that was even possible. A second week of what was somewhat of an adventure, the energy of adrenaline in survival mode, has turned into cranky grief and irritation. Our coping mechanisms of going out to eat, gym at the end of the work day, shopping, travel and contact sports have dwindled into a walk around the block, a drive, Zoom-(fill-in-the-blank) and a risky trip to Peet's.
Moms and Dads are tearing out their hair trying to keep their jobs and homeschool the kiddos while single-people feel isolated, bored and touch-starved. New "situationships" have developed between roommates, neighbors and your ex. (I find myself continually fascinated by all the ways people are responding to their unique experience of this incredible human experiment.)
Here are another round of snipets and resources for this week. This blog is shorter and not as crafted. I'm doing my best. And today, that's not much. And I am very ok with that:-)
Love and hugs to each of you.
1. A reassuring and helpful video from a NYC doctor about ways to be safe as well as ways to stay empowered and positive.
2. Self-Compassion Break
4. We are feeling grief. How to see, understand and process what we are experiencing.
5. Tara Brach on facing pandemic fears.
6. Spotify playlist for a walk.
In this blog I will be offering some words of comfort, practical suggestions and links to resources for adjusting to our quickly changing landscape. If you want to get to the resource links and an EMDR resourcing video right away, scroll all the way to the bottom.
Just last week I was planning a modest vacation away for my kids' spring break. Even though we had already decided to forgo a trip to L.A. with my parents from Minnesota due to Covid 19 fears, it seemed completely reasonable to plan an alternative trip to the North Coast to stay at a hotel with a swimming pool. After all, that's what the kids were most excited about! I was not yet arranging to see all my clients on video, wiping my groceries with Lysol wipes or contemplating my toilet paper inventory. I went out to dinner with a friend at a restaurant, pet the neighbor's dog, took a Lyft and attended my beloved exercise classes. I felt concern, like a faint rumble of thunder in the distance, threatening weather on the horizon but quite likely it would pass or possibly even miss us altogether.
However, from Thursday to Monday, we rapidly adjusted to unprecedented and dramatic changes in our daily lifestyle. The storm came upon us quickly and without much time to prepare. Today we are facing changes that affect our most intimate relationships and our most mundane daily tasks. We are experiencing a collective whiplash as we adjust to these shifts which have us all facing pervasive mental, physical and emotional consequences. Some of us have lost our jobs already while some of us are wondering how long we will keep our jobs. Some of us lost our child care but still need to work 40 hours from home. Our kids--all ages of kids--are out of school and need us to entertain, feed and care for them, presenting the parenting challenge of being patient, attentive and focused even though we are freaking out inside! Some of us lost large amounts of money in the stock market, watched our small businesses implode or couldn't close on the house we were in the midst of buying. Uncle Joe is alone and old; sister Laura is disabled and lives in a group home where staff is short.
No matter what you do, where you live, how old you are and how you live your life, you are affected deeply by this global crisis. While this rollercoaster presents frightful realities that seem to worsen every day, it also has extraordinary potentials. We are being drawn together in a collective reality and no one knows how this will turn out.
I am taking comfort in the things I have been observing in the response to this event both in my own life, and on the national and global scale. There have already been so many random acts of kindness including people offering each other financial help; bringing meals to those in need; free music or reading for kids online and even Mo Willems ( a famous children's author) doing a daily YouTube for kids in his studio. One thing I know about humans as a therapist, is that we are INCREDIBLY ADAPTABLE. Think of how quickly you have all adapted to your situation in the past week? New daily routines, making your own coffee instead of your usual latte to-go(!), tag-team child care arrangements, Zoom "hang-outs" with friends and grocery shopping online for older relatives. We are being asked to both let go and hang on. We must let go of our natural desire to make certain the uncertain and control our future but to also hang on to our sanity, humanity and identity. This is a difficult challenge for even the most sophisticated mind and we are integrating a very wide dialectic at light speed. For this reason, please be gentle with yourself. because you are being asked to do A LOT. In a very short amount of time.
Below you will find some very practical ways to hang onto your sanity and your aliveness through this heroic challenge. Above all: remember that you are not alone. We are all working together and support is just a phone call (or Zoom chat!) away.
Keep a daily routine; write it down and try to do most of the things on it every day. This is especially important if you tend towards depression and/or have kids.
A daily routine should include:
It's easy to let personal hygiene and nutrition fall to the wayside when we are staying at home and not going out into the world regularly. But if we are not taking care of our bodies, our minds suffer too. Especially if you aren't eating well and getting some fresh air. Keeping your blood-sugar regular will keep your mood stable, increase your focus and stabilize your energy level. Keep taking supplements, vitamins and eating good, nutritious food. I don't really like cooking for myself so I noticed I wasn't eating enough and feeling even more grouchy and anxious because of it! Pro-tip: make big pots of food in slow cooker and plan for the next few days to keep your belly full and reduce the need to go to the grocery store.
Meditation, exercise, being outside and doing art/crafts is also important for mood stabilization. We need to be very kind to our nervous systems right now. It may seem like things have slowed down but they are actually going very fast and we have experienced (and will continue to experience) the trauma of this event. Allow yourself to engage in activities that both release the trauma and build resilience to what is in store. Meditation, exercise and art (drawing, painting, writing, interpretive dance, collage, etc.) help us process this experience in our right brain so we can make meaning that is uniquely our own intuitive narrative. In other words, art will help us organize this experience and process it so we are not stuck in it. This is part of the "letting go."
Reaching out to friends and family is important to grow our circles of support and keep us informed, connected and safe. Maybe someone will need our help one day and then we will need help from them the next. Remind each other that you exist! This can offer all of us comfort as the days move into weeks and we feel more isolated. My four and a half year-old daughter wanted to call her friend, Josie, the second day of "Shelter-in-place." They spent three whole minutes just saying each other's names back and forth. There was nothing to say really. They just wanted to confirm the other still existed and was happy to hear from them.
If family members or friends are not helpful to mood, limit contact with them. Allow yourself to not text/call back right away. Limit contact with people who drain your energy or are abusive. This is not the time to be heroic with mean people who take advantage of others. Be compassionate to yourself and set healthy boundaries. If you are living with people that are difficult to get along with, try to work out a schedule for kitchen and common areas. Use "I" statements and "Non-Violent Communication" tools to express your needs. And, remember that we are all processing this stress in different ways. It's ok to let people know that you are feeling stressed and how they might best support you.
Play! Allow yourself to do whatever it is that you define as playing. Be goofy. Invoke some silliness in your day. I mean, this is all so absurd. Necessary. but absurd. Talk to yourself, make-up a funny song, dance naked in your room to M.C. Hammer. Do whatever it takes to laugh. Laughter is good for your immune system so laugh a lot and consider it a prophylactic against this nasty virus.
Be so compassionate. To yourself and to others. We will get through this. Our world will not be the same after this and we do not yet know just what exactly these changes will be. We do know that people will die, and some will recover. Some will be thrown into poverty (or deeper into) or lose loved ones or their homes. Certainly there will be days when we lose hope. And then we get it back again. We each have the power to respond to each of these events with compassion, love and togetherness. Be there for yourself so you can be there for the world.
Here are some online resources and an audio file for EMDR resourcing:
East Bay Meditation Center
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
The Dailey Method
Yama Kids Yoga
Shawl-Anderson Dance Center
Oakland Yoga Studio
Resources for Kids
Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
When things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
How to Be an Adult by David Richo