How does one stay emotionally and socially connected while being physically apart?
Social and emotional connection are important elements in staying mentally healthy and managing one’s anxiety. Even a big home can seem small when you have been locked in together for more than a week.
It’s Day 5 of quarantine as I write this, and so far I have managed to maintain my peace and positivity. However, I am also fully aware that it may become a challenge as the days go by. I imagine what a tough period this must be for my extroverted friends.
Now more than ever is the best time to practice self-care. Remember, as in a plane emergency, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. Here are some creative ways to practice self-care in the time of COVID19.
Preserving one’s mental health begins with taking care of one’s physical health. Although it’s hard to exercise outdoors, it can be done as long as you practice social distancing. Go when there is hardly anyone on the road, very early in the morning or at dusk. You can also choose from a wide array of home exercise programs on YouTube—anything from Zumba for seniors to QiGong to yoga, to online dancing to K-pop.
There’s no excuse not to keep fit! Regular exercise will also stave off depression and anxiety by releasing much-needed happy hormones. An added plus is the weight loss if you do this daily. Where else are you going to go, anyway?
Quiet time for mind, spirit
Meditate and pray. Make a conscious effort to start and end your day with meditation and prayer. Time to quiet one’s mind and spirit is essential to preserving one’s sanity during this challenging period.
Calm.com and Insight Timer are excellent places to begin a meditation practice. Again, there are so many ways to pray or meditate at home. You can do it by yourself, you can try it with an app (I subscribe to the You Bible and choose a study plan to guide me, or the First 5 app by the Proverbs 31 Ministries) or pray with a group via Facebook Live or through Zoom.
If you are a reader, or even if you’re not, Scribd.com has opened up its library of books and magazines, absolutely free for 30 days! They’ve got an amazing collection, so check it out.
If you have many unread books, and I’m guilty of this, now is the time to read, read and read! When all of this is over, you can donate the books you don’t feel like keeping, to someone who would appreciate receiving them.
You can also begin a small online book club. You can do it through a group on Messenger or again via Zoom or GoToMeetings.
Then, of course, there is good old Netflix and its vast collection of films, TV series, educational shows and documentaries to choose from.
I recently discovered the joy of watching Korean dramas through the hit “Crash Landing On You,” and I’m so glad I discovered it just when COVID-19 hit our shores. It has to be, for me at least, the best stress buster ever. So many friends, recent converts as well, swear that watching K-drama regularly has helped lift their moods and brought so much joy and laughter into their lives.
What to watch? There’s a slew of them. Ask your K-drama specialist friends for recommendations, and please, give it a try. You won’t regret it.
Digital Friday-night dinners
You can also start a digital Friday-night dinner with your friends and/or extended family. Agree on a time and set the meals up then get everyone to log on through a conference video call. Celebrating a birthday soon? You can still hold a celebration via livestream.
Be a fact-checker for fake news. There’s a huge proliferation of fake news on social media and on Viber groups. If you have the means or the talent to get to the truth, counter the fake news with the truth. That will be such a huge service to the community.
Reach out. You don’t need to go far to help. The village guards, the condominium cleaners and guards who keep your homes safe, will appreciate extra kindness at this time. If you have communities near where you live that could benefit from a soup kitchen or regular feeding program, see how you can set that up with your friends or neighbors.
Limit your media consumption each day. Remember that “panic sells, and calm saves.”
Having (or at least trying to have) a calm and helpful attitude during difficult times helps you and the people around you. Limit your information gathering to reputable sites such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (if you are in the United States) or the Department of Health, or the DOH (in the Philippines). Do this only once or twice a day. That is enough to keep updated.
Tear yourself away from browsing if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Better yet, set a timer for yourself. I read only updates from the WHO and the DOH in the morning, and at around 6 p.m. each day.
Role modeling for kids
If you are the parent of young children, remember that role modeling is very important. Be conscious about how much news you have on at home. Be aware of how you are talking to each other—what does your intonation and facial expression connote? Relay only age-appropriate information from the WHO.
Lastly, if you are living with seniors, allow them to process the event by letting them tell stories. We have a lot to learn from their own experiences. In general, seniors have been through so much more than we have! Begin conversations about how they’ve remained resilient throughout their lives, how they lived through war, and how they’ve gotten to this point.
Remember that though this is a time of great uncertainty, this could also be our finest hour. It will all depend on how we respond to the things we hear and see. When we respond with kindness, patience and compassion for all, we let the best of our humanity shine, and this virus, for all the havoc it has wreaked on the world, will never beat us.