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Caring for Ourselves Amid COVID-19


It's hard to stay calm when we see shelves in the stores emptied, when we hear news broadcasts with undertones of impending doom, when there's so much that is unknown and everything globally seems to be "on its head". Children are home from schools, assisted care facilities are on lock-down or have limited visitations, we're being sent home to work remotely (some even being laid off), all restaurants and bars are being ordered to temporarily close, airports are empty and lots of travel is being cancelled. Social distancing, isolation and quarantine are becoming daily vocabulary words and it can simply feel scary! How do we survive this??


I am feeling it too. Walking through the grocery store yesterday to pick up basic needs for the week was met with a feeling of an apocalyptic film - aisle upon aisle either empty or grossly picked over, people wearing masks and gloves as they shop, running through the store to get a container of eggs or the last can of soup, no toilet paper or other paper goods were to be found anywhere in the store. As I walked the store, some fellow-customers were commenting on how surreal it was, that even trying to simply pick out ingredients for dinner tonight seemed impossible because of the bareness of the shelves. I can't say I didn't pick up some extra items for the week, just in case...


I acknowledge that anxiety, fear, worry and confusion are incredibly high in our communities given the current concerns with COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) and how it is already and could continue to impact us individually, our loved ones, and the larger collective. Control is a theme here - somehow by getting stocked up on "essentials" means "I'll be okay!" We want to feel a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation, and something we have not dealt with before in recent history -- we have had public health concerns over the years, but nothing to this magnitude that elicits this level of panic. We don't have historical information to go off of to help us feel safe, secure, and grounded.


I am writing to encourage caring for ourselves as a part of combating the unknown and the anxiety that comes with it. By caring for ourselves, we are better able to also care for others.


Some Tips for Getting Through this Time:


1. Spending time outside - The weather has been relatively nice the last few days (at least it has here in Denver...), if you are able to go outside even just to a backyard or balcony, go out and take in several deep breaths of fresh air. If you're able to go for a walk, do so. Take time in nature to whatever degree you are able or is comfortable for you. It can be very refreshing and grounding to spend time outside, feel the sun on your skin and earth beneath your feet.


2. Stay connected with loved ones - It has been recommended that we practice "social-distancing". This is different from isolation, though it can still feel isolating. We are still able to call, write, email, g-chat, FB chat, Snapchat, FaceTime, Skype... Stay in touch and check in on one another. Sometimes that little bit of connection can be a real boost. And just to talk through how crazy this all feels can help release some fear and pressure, whether for ourselves or for someone we are checking in on. It is especially important to check in on our elders and other individuals who qualify as vulnerable to this illness, this must be an even scarier time for them. Being available to listen can be very helpful too.


3. Meet your foundational needs - Are you eating enough? Getting enough sleep? Drinking enough water? Exercising at least a little? Showering daily? Brushing your teeth? Doing your laundry? ... Meeting our basic fundamental needs can help with a sense of normalcy and regulation. If you are unable to make some of these things happen for yourself or your family, is there anyone you can call on to provide support or are there other resources available that can help? Once those needs are successfully met, are there other things you can invest time and energy in that help with normalcy and regulation, such as finding and sharing joy? Maybe post a funny image online or share a bit of good news if you can.


4. Be purposeful if you go in public - Are you feeling bored so you go to a store to mill about? There is risk of exposure by doing this, either for yourself or someone else (it is said that the majority of people who contract this illness won't show symptoms!). Boredom maybe isn't the best reason to be out shopping right now... However if you have a purpose to go into a store to buy something that you need, that makes sense. I'd encourage making it a relatively quick purposeful trip, and that you be kind to those who are out working. This isn't easy on any of us, and our retailers have been very, very busy!


5. Sharing is Caring - if you are going out and can pick up some extras to help others out, that's great! If someone mentions that they are in need of something and you happen to have some extra of that thing at home, maybe spot them a little! Giving even in these small ways actually gives us a boost too. Just like how volunteer work makes us feel good, giving to others is part of that. Stepping out of the "Me/I" mentality and into the "Us/We" togetherness mentality is a way to really embrace this time and come together as a community. We are all in this together, after all! Maybe your older neighbor down the way could use a hand? Maybe tip a little extra if you do go out to get a coffee or a meal? Maybe offer to pick up something for someone else? Maybe go to a local retailer or order delivery from an independently run restaurant? All good ways to help do some good right now!


6. Use your time for "back-burnered" projects - Have some spare time because you are quarantined at home? Maybe now is the time to organize your cabinets, do a deep "spring cleaning", pick up a new book you've been meaning to read, play with your children and invent new games with them, create some art, do some baking... There are constructive ways to pass the time, and this is a time that we are all being called to "slow down...." This time can be used for music, creativity, imagination, personal productivity, and more!


7. Wash your hands! - One of the easiest ways we can care for ourselves and others is to take some of the basic precautions seriously that scientists and public officials been talking about. Washing our hands, covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze (preferably into an elbow or tissue...), and specifically during this time inventing new greetings instead of handshakes and hugs during are ways that we can reduce the spread of this virus.


Some of these may seem small or even silly, but they can be great ways to get grounded and re-centered when feeling upside down with the fear and worry that is very apparent in our communities. I know this isn't an all-inclusive list of things we can do... What other ideas can you think of that could be helpful self-care for reducing anxiety during this time of uncertainty?


If there is anything that I can do to be of support to help with processing what you are experiencing, please feel free to reach out. I am taking appointments and have the ability to meet via Telehealth. 720-619-1058, AllisonCGary@gmail.com.


Stay safe and well, and we will be in touch.


Kind regards,

Allison C. Gary


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