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Surviving COVID-19

I have a fantasy that one day soon we will be seeing the light

at the end of the coronavirus national emergency tunnel. That none of the predictions would be true, we would have avoided severe death, illness and we would have flattened the curve. And, looking at social media and talking to family, friends, and clients I hear people experiencing overwhelming feelings. So many are moving through all the phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

This might be the first time in years that you have been still or had time to reflect on your life.

Or you might be adjusting to the realization that this is the most time you’ve ever spent with a loved one, significant other, children, or extended family. Conversely, you might be acutely aware of your aloneness. Maybe a relationship ended, the children have left home, your friendship network has grown shallow, you've left social media, or it’s consumed you and you realize that you haven’t had a real conversation in weeks… or more. If any of these feelings resonate with you, please know that “It’s OK to not be OK.”

One quote I heard that seems perfect for this situation is: While we might not be able to control the weather, we can control the temperature in our homes, hearts, lives.

I would like to offer some proven strategies that help promote mental health resilience and help you weather periods of adversity. In that spirit, I heard a doctor outline her prescription for essential everyday practices that I thought were especially useful to share.

Mindfulness – The simple definition of mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Anything can be done mindfully (prayer, eating, sitting in silence). As a family you could have unplug time where you teach and practice moments of mindfulness.

Mastery – Do you have a skill, project, or a hobby that you have been neglecting? Or maybe you have wanted to pour your time, talent and energy into something new. Doing something where you feel competent or are building competency is empowering and helps you counteract any feelings of powerlessness.

Movement – Every day you should spend at least 30 minutes moving. Plan dance breaks, walks, yoga, strengthening, or other forms of movement. Get outside and take a family walk, bike ride, or play a side walk game. MOVE!

Meaningful – Finally, it’s possible to completely fill this time at home with busy work. Don’t do it! Instead, prioritize doing something that matters to you and connects you to others. You could reach out to your neighbors or the seniors in your life, participate in a volunteer phone bank, journal, or even offer a virtual workshop sharing your gifts with others. This is the time to help the dreams you’ve been to busy to cultivate grow!

You could fill all your empty spaces with “to do’s.” However, I hope you also honor the stillness, the slow down, the pressure to do. I hope you’ll spend some of this time being. And, if you are a parent, modeling how to be present is such a gift to our children and loved ones.

When we come out of this, things will be different.

Finally, this time may be especially challenging for you if you’re a trauma survivor and have felt triggered by not being able to come and go as you please. You might be feeling powerless because there is so much that you can’t control. Those of us who have experienced trauma desperately need to be in control (or at least feel in control).

While some grief, worry, and feelings of uncertainty are normal and expected, if you are having significant problems sleeping, eating, managing your emotions, parenting, or excessively worrying, please seek professional help. Because we are in a period of social distancing, it will probably need to be online or virtual. Talkspace, Betterhelp (which has a sliding scale), and Therapy for Black Girls are all great resources, as well as NAMI, a national organization with a free hotline (800-950-6264) and the Crisis Text Line And don’t forget that there are a number of local providers who are available to serve you, too.

If you have questions need resources for yourself, children, employees – please reach out!

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