Kaarin Anderson Ryan, PhD, BCBA, LBA. 3.19.20
How quickly things can change. Within the past week we have gone from being on alert for potential changes in our country while watching other countries struggle with this pandemic, to being in full-scale crisis mode. This is especially true in certain areas of our country that are particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 and are scrambling to contain the situation. The amount of information out there is completely overwhelming and ever-changing.
Resources are popping up everywhere to give people help and support during this challenging time. I have seen great ideas being shared about how to help parents suddenly needing to have their kids at home and do their schooling from home, and in some cases including online schooling. There are resources for how to work remotely, how to social distance, how to stay healthy, how to prepare your home for a period of isolation, how much you need to isolate to protect others and yourself. Some are posting ideas on self care and finding peace in the midst of turmoil. It is wonderful to see so many minds sharing ideas on how to cope with this surreal situation.
But it is also just overwhelming.
So, this post is not going to link you to a thousand great resources. It is not going to tell you what to watch and what to read and what to ignore. Instead, this post will give you my own take on what to do now. For yourself, for your family, and for your community.
Breathe. Every day you will wake up with some sense of unrest. What will be in the news today? What is the status in my own community? Am I healthy? Are my loved ones healthy? The potential for overarching fear and anxiety is through the roof. So, remember to breathe. I am not talking about just a deep breath here and there, I am talking about intentionally taking moments throughout your day to stop and take at least 5 focused, quiet deep breaths. Stop thinking for a few minutes and focus on the air you are breathing in and the air you are breathing out. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out slowly through your mouth. Let some of the anxiety go out with your breath each time.
Make a list. What are all the things you wanted to have time to do, but never made the time? Being stuck at home, this is a good time to look at some of those projects, and spend some time with those. How you do this is up to you. Maybe you say, I am going to spend one hour per day working on project x, or catching up on miscellaneous tasks. Or maybe you jump in wholeheartedly to one big project that you have been putting off for a long time. Whatever you do is up to you and will depend on your own schedule and circumstances. But many people in the United States and around the world are finding themselves with a bit more downtime right now.
Share enjoyment. Can’t get out to socialize as much as you want? Set something up online. Of course it is not the same as person-to-person contact, but it is better than not seeing people you like. You can use any number of technologies, from FaceTime to Facebook video to Google Hangouts or Zoom. I have seen posts for musicians doing virtual living room concerts you can livestream and hear good music. You can also use Netflix, who has set up a way to watch movies with friends.
Get some fresh air. If you live somewhere where you can get outside without being near a lot of people, a daily walk is refreshing and good for your health. If you can’t leave your building without rubbing elbows with people on the elevator, open your window and let in some fresh air.
Workout from home. You do not need a home gym to work out from home. Not only are there loads of resources for using bodyweight exercises to get full body workouts, some gyms are now posting exercise classes online for you to livestream or view. They are doing this with the understanding that people do not have equipment at home, so you can do the classes from your own place.
Stay the course. If everyone does their part to flatten the curve and keep this pandemic in check, we will be back to normal sooner. Remember that this feels awful right now, but we will get through it and we will be back to normal.
For your family
Implement structure now. If you have kids or teenagers at home, start out by setting up a structure for the days. Most kids still have school work, and college students are finishing up their courses online. Have your family set up times for work and leisure every day. Implementing and maintaining structure can reduce stress.
Schedule family time. More time with family always sounds great, it feels like the right thing to wish for, but in reality being cooped up with your family for weeks can be a bit difficult. So make sure individual family members are getting their own space as much as possible, but also set aside time regularly, even daily, to do something fun as a family. Movies, games, puzzles, making video journals of your time in isolation, cooking and baking are all good ideas. All you need to do to get ideas is search online for things to do in quarantine and you will find a lot of recent posts and articles.
Stay positive. By taking good care of your own needs, as noted above, you will be able to stay more positive for your family members. And remember, this will pass. We can do this.
For your community.
Stop the spread! This is my most important advice right now. Not to get too much on a soap box about this, but we all have to do our part to stop this now. The horses are already out of the barn, so to speak, but it is up to us now to slow them down. Because our testing is way behind in this country, the advice from experts is to assume that everyone has it. That’s right. Assume that everyone has it. Including yourself. So this means you are isolating yourself as much as possible. Staying in your home, working from home, socializing only remotely, OR only with people you know are also being very strict about their interactions. When you do go out you are distancing from everyone. You are washing your hands much more than usual. If you think you may have been exposed, even if you don’t have symptoms, stay home. **If you are a young adult or you know a young adult, tell them to stop attending social events and gatherings!** Because they often don’t show symptoms but are contagious anyway, they are super-vectors for this disease. And even if they are lucky enough to not get really ill, they could easily give it to someone who isn’t so lucky. All you have to do is read about Europe right now to see that if we don’t slow down now it will soon be mandated, but not before lots of vulnerable people get really, really sick. Stop doing things. Just stop.
Help local service organizations. There are a lot of people who shouldn’t be going out at all. Community organizations everywhere are setting up delivery services for vulnerable people take them food, groceries, medications, and household needs. If you are healthy – and if you can follow all the precautions to protect others – contact local groups to see how you can help.
Donate to food pantries. Food pantries are going to see a growing need for supplies as people lose hours at work and need more help. If you are able, drop off food and necessities (toilet paper for example!) at a local food pantry. Every bit helps and they will need it.
Donate to charities. If you are financially secure through this crisis, consider directing some of your charitable contributions to organizations who are going to struggle. This would include shelters, soup kitchens, churches, and volunteer agencies who help those in need. Also consider helping community businesses who may struggle during this time.
This is a time when we need to reflect as individuals and as a society who we really are. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other, and let’s try to breathe through this and remember that only with each others’ support will we come out on the other side of this as whole and as together as possible.