Our world is hurting. This viral pandemic has infected more than one million individuals and has taken more than 60,000 lives across the globe. Unemployment has skyrocketed in the United States, the stock market has crashed, schools have closed, non-essential businesses have shut down, sports have been cancelled, weddings, baby showers, funerals and birthdays have been put on hold, elections have been postponed, the streets are empty, doctors and nurses on the frontlines have limited personal protective equipment, and many of these frontline heroes have succumbed to COVID-19. Our world is hurting, but we still have kindness and compassion.
We have never seen anything like this in modern history; scientists and government agencies are fighting to find a vaccine, doctors are struggling to save lives, and we as a collective society are uncertain of the future. Not everyone is infected, but everyone is affected by this pandemic. Our world is hurting, but we still have hope.
We must take care of ourselves by making our physical and mental health a priority during this time. We must take care of our community, friends, and loved ones while still practicing social distancing. Our mental health has never been more critical than now. Our world is hurting, but we must take care of our minds, bodies, and souls and protect those around us.
Limit your news consumption: Turning on your television, flipping through a newspaper, browsing the Internet, or logging into social media can be very stressful, primarily when everything is directed towards this deadly pandemic. We must stay informed, but we also must be cognizant of how we are staying informed. Limit your news intake to one hour a day and choose your news sources wisely. Some news sources are more editorialized than others, so it is essential to pick a credible source with the most neutral political views. If social media has become too triggering for you, then take a social media break or hide any accounts that cause you stress and anxiety.
Stay connected: Yes, we must practice social distancing to literally save lives, but that does not mean we have to be isolated from our loved ones. Now is the best time to take advantage of our modern technology by staying connected through video calling programs such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facetime. We can also write letters through the mail, drop off care packages to our neighbors, and engage with each other on social media. I have even witnessed grown children visiting their parents “through the windows” of their homes. Social distancing and quarantine can seem lonely, but we have so many ways to stay connected, we have to use technology and think outside the box.
Learn to cook: Most of the world is forced to spend more time at home, and for many, we are now on even tighter financial budgets due to the massive layoffs. This is an excellent opportunity to sharpen your cooking skills by learning new recipes or getting newly acquainted with your kitchen. Cooking is not only a great way to keep your body strong and healthy, but it is also a creative outlet to feed your soul and can drastically lighten the burden on your wallet. There are a plethora of free recipes online to get you started, and you can even share your cooking art with the world through social media. Load up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, spices, and sauces and see what beautiful, tasty creations you invent.
Read a book: Reading can be an excellent stress reliever and a creative outlet. Books sharpen our minds, keep up informed, and are great conversation starters. Since libraries and bookstores are currently closed, we must get creative on finding new books to read. Search for free community book exchanges, check out free online audiobooks from the public library or borrow books from friends or neighbors. You can also purchase new and used books online.
Pick up a new hobby: Whether it’s learning to bake homemade bread, starting an indoor garden, learning to knit or sew or speak a new language, learning a new hobby is a great way to pass the time, get creative and de-stress. There are many free online tutorials and classes such as edX that can help you succeed in any new creative task you decide to master.
Adopt a healthy skincare routine: We may not be able to go to a salon during these trying times, but we can still take care of our skin at home. Try a DIY facial, make a homemade mask, take a hot bath, purchase your skincare products from your favorite small business, and spend time pampering yourself at home.
Sleep: Sleep in, go to bed early, take naps, and enjoy the comfort of your bed. We live in a world where we are told we must be productive, we must always multitask, and we must always be “connected,” and as a result, we are sleep deprived and stressed. Now is the time to take advantage of slowing down and getting into a healthy sleep routine so we can restore our bodies and minds.
Physical exercise is a must: Exercise is one of the best stress relievers and a necessary outlet to keep our physical bodies and minds healthy. Although fitness studios, gyms, and many outdoor trails are closed, we can still exercise daily. Many yoga studios and fitness gyms are offering free online virtual classes so you can engage in your favorite workout from the comfort of your home. I have even seen people transform their free bikes into stationary bikes so they can still cycle in their living room. You can also always go outside and go for a run, walk, or ski around your neighborhood.
Foster a pet: Many of the animal shelters are closed, and many individuals are sitting at home, stressed, and lonely. Fostering a pet is not only a great way to have a companion, but it also lessons the massive burden that animal shelters are experiencing during this time. Fostering a pet can give you a sense of comfort, responsibility, and companionship. Animal therapy is a great way to help with depression and anxiety, and there is no better way to calm your nerves than cuddling a kitty or walking a dog outside.
Stay in therapy: If you were attending treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder before this pandemic started, this is not the time to stop. This trying time can be especially triggering, and it is essential to stay connected with your therapist and treatment team. Most outpatient centers are offering virtual therapy to comply with social distancing guidelines.
We are not sure when or how this will end, but eventually, this will end. Although we cannot control the future or the outcome of this, we can do our small part in flattening the curve by staying home, practicing social distancing, washing our hands, and spreading love, kindness, and hope to those around us.
When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, a hug from a friend, sitting at an airport, full shelves at the grocery store, waiting in line, going to work, conversations with a neighbor, Friday nights at the local bar, going to church, coffee with friends, sitting in the school drop off line, standing for the National Anthem in a crowded baseball stadium… daily life.
When this comes to an end, may we find that we have become better keepers of quietness, better at sitting still, better at loving ourselves, and better at appreciating the smallest moments of our day.
When this is over, may we have a greater love and appreciation for companionship, our environment, our health, and our freedom.
When this is over, may we be kinder to each other and becomes more like the people who we dreamt of being, and may we continue to live that way until the end of time.