I am writing this article from bed, listening to the sweet sounds of Sleepy Hollow on University of Pennsylvania station, WXPN, which includes easing into the day music that is a regular part of my Saturday morning. I plan to remain at home, not interacting physically with other human beings, but certainly available via phone or cyberspace. Thankfully, I am showing no symptoms of COVID-19, but I am monitoring closely, since I was in the hospital three times in the past month for cardiac and kidney stone related issues which puts me in a high-risk group, along with being part of the over-60 crowd.
Except for going to work as a therapist, the only people I see regularly are my son, daughter-in-law and infant grandson who live nearby. I help take care of the wee one who is learning to explore the world with all of his senses, touching his face and putting his fingers in his mouth. What a time to for him to have gotten born, in the midst of so much crisis and chaos in the world. My intention is to do what I can to make it a safer and healthier place for him and all of the children.
While I can’t totally claim to be self-quarantining, I am following recommended protocol from the CDC and staying home when I can. I have not gathered with friends as I do regularly and cancelled two workshops I was to facilitate and one party I had planned to host. I have declined invitations to get together and am heartened to see that people are taking seriously, the need for social physical distance. As a consummate hugger, it has been challenging to be hands off. Instead, I offer virtual hugs, wrapping my arms around myself as a proxy. No germs shared that way. The paradox is that in the midst of world events, beyond the health crisis, we need connection with each other more than ever.
Since the Coronavirus erupted, many of my clients have been in hypervigilant crisis mode which is understandable. My job, even while harboring my own brewing nervousness, is to help them to regain stability. I remind them to use the anxiety reducing strategies they already know and increase the frequency. I suggest that they read/watch/listen to reputable sources, not panic inducing pieces. I recommend that they follow the hygiene protocol including coughing or sneezing into their elbows, steering clear of anyone with the disease, if possible, handwashing thoroughly and using hand sanitizer when a sink and soap are not available. Humor and handwashing go “hand in hand” with ideas about songs to sing when they want to be sure they are cleansing long enough. In our office are posters related to the precautions we are taking to create safety. On our desks (they have always been there) are bottles of hand sanitizer. I spray the couch with Lysol and wipe down surfaces.
Although I wash my hands scrupulously anyway, having techniques reinforced when working in an acute care psychiatric hospital, I am even more conscientious. I imagine you have seen memes about handwashing; a memorable one tells us to wash our hands as if we had just eaten jalapeno peppers and about to put in contact lenses. My routine is to wash them as thoroughly as if I was about to feed my grandson.
Ideas to wend your way through this crisis:
- Call friends (Facetime, Skype and Zoom are the next best thing to being there).
- Interact on social media and via email.
- Send letters and cards.
- Use affirmations that reinforce your health. “I am healed, whole and healthy.” “Wellness is my birthright.” “I am resilient and can sustain health.” Create your own.
- Write in your journal.
- Make a gratitude list.
- Watch to healing videos.
- Sing along with tunes that affirm health, like “Healed Whole and Healthy” by Karen Drucker.
- Play the kinds of games with your children and grandchildren that you loved as a child. Monopoly, pick up sticks, jacks, marbles, cards and checkers beat electronics hands down.
- Create Vision boards with imagery that highlight health and wellbeing.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others in the midst of this time.
- Know that it will eventually subside (one hallmark of anxiety is the belief that there will be no relief). If we know that there is an end point in sight, stressors are easier to handle.
- Listen to this NPR podcast of Radio Times called Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety that contains useful information to help ride the tide.
- Check on health compromised neighbors and family members.
- If you are well, run errands for those who can’t do so for themselves.
- Don’t hoard-shop. Panic buying will prevent those who need staple items to purchase them.
- Watch fun, light-hearted movies, videos and television shows.
- Use Laughter Yoga as a tool to boost your immune system and provide mood stabilization.
- Contact friends or family you haven’t spoken with in a while.
- Take virtual tours of works of art.
- Re-decorate your space.
- Clean and purge your home, car or office.
- Get outside in nature when you can. Sunshine is a mood lifter.
- Exercise as able. Walk, bicycle, run, dance, practice yoga.
- Cook and bake, with appropriate handwashing first, of course.
- Support local businesses, since they may be strongly impacted.
- Join in community with song as these folks did in Italy.
- Attend spiritual services on-line as many faith communities are offering them.
- Attend 12-step meetings on-line.
- Eat nourishing meals that boost your immune system.
- Greet people with elbow bumps, air hugs, virtual hugs, foot taps, bows, eye contact, winks, smiles, waves.
We humans are a resilient bunch and throughout history have survived war, famine, epidemics, trauma and tragedy of all sorts. If there are takeaway lessons from this challenge they are that disease knows no international boundaries, love is stronger than fear, a “we and not just me” attitude serves everyone, and we need each other to survive.