The whole world and all of her beings are impacted by the existence of the Coronavirus / COVID-19. Including you and all the people you care about, as well as those you don’t yet know.
In my area, testing for Coronavirus / COVID-19 is rationed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Treatment specific to this virus does not yet exist. However, opinions, recommendations, and some facts are broadcast 24/7 in real life, on social media, online, TV, radio, in our dreams, ….
Through March 2020 and potentially longer, many public and private businesses are temporarily closing; events, including support gatherings, are being cancelled. People whose income is from small local businesses are losing income. Schools of all levels are closed for varying durations. So families with adults who work while children are in school may or may not have safe options to keep working. When colleges and universities close their campuses, even when they will continue educational programs online, residential students may have no resources for housing, food, or transportation to another “home.”
This is freaking stressful! Expect to be impacted. Beings are supposed to care about each other and themselves. (And yes, that includes those of us who are designated helpers. We helpers take responsibility for our own care, so we can help others!)
I’ve been around crisis work long enough to remember when HIV / AIDS was a new public health concern with no treatment. And in those days, the basic recommendations were: keep your stress low and live like you, and everyone you are in contact with, are HIV+. And that is what I advocate for current times and Coronavirus / COVID-19.
So what are you supposed to do?
1) Periodically slow down and take a few deep breaths. Acknowledge your emotions, where you feel them in your body, and your thoughts. However, remind yourself that your thoughts are not necessarily true. And be aware that rumination is not helpful, so try to “change the channel” in your brain.
2) Try to get sufficient sleep.
3) Eat healthy, nutritious foods.
4) Drink plenty of water. (The water in alcoholic beverages does not count. Just sayin’.)
5) Exercise in the ways that are realistic for your body.
6) Communicate with people you trust to really listen to you. Your pets count as people!
7) Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. When they’re clean, you get to touch your face! Then wash your hands again.
8) Purchasing hand sanitizer is no longer an option, thanks to those who bought up mass quantities. You may still be able to get the basic DIY supplies, though: alcohol (not the kind you drink!) and glycerine or aloe gel. Follow the directions on The Mighty for making hand sanitizer.
9) Clean the surfaces in your living and work environment. If you use bleach or alcohol, CDC guidelines : Click that link for “how to.”
10) As much as possible, avoid exchanging germs with other people! Those cleaning suggestions above are important. And wait there’s more! The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers prevention tips Use them! And expect the tips to be updated as more information becomes known.
Do YOUR things that help YOU cope with hard stuff in life
You need to limit your exposure to “news” as well as how much time you spend thinking about this virus! And you are more likely to succeed when you substitute a different activity. As mentioned above: do YOUR level of exercise, and communicate with YOUR people. Do the things that are helpful to you, that you will really do. In case you need some prompts to come up with your list, here are some, in no special order:
1) Journaling can be a good way to dump stuff out of your brain, or a good way to remind yourself of some goodness that you experience each day.
2) Arts, crafts, coloring, cooking, …. Focus on, and enjoy, creating things, whether or not you will share them with others
3) Distract yourself in other healthy ways that fully occupy your brain so that it has no room for a while to focus on worries about the virus.
4) Indulge your senses:
~ soaps, candles, incense, oils with scents that you really enjoy,
~ look for the beauty outside of your front door or even in your home,
~ eat or drink something that tastes really good,
~ listen to music, stories, poetry, books
~ soothing touch might include wearing really comfortable clothing, a soft blanket on a cold day, petting a beloved dog, cat, ferret, or other fur baby
5) Do the things that anthropologist Angeles Arrien found to be healing activities across cultures: sing, dance, share your story, and spend some time in silence.
And most important, BE KIND! To yourself and others!
Take good care… really!
PS I served from October 1979 – November 2013 as the Director of Headquarters, Inc., aka Headquarters Counseling Center, the free, 24/7 counseling center in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2001, Chad Sublet and I started the first Disaster Mental Health Team for Emergency Management of any county in Kansas. Chad and I each completed several courses from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, as well as Disaster Mental Health training by American Red Cross. My experience and expertise in the area of crisis support and management continues to grow.